Eclipse is focused on closing in on Visual Studio – Switching campaigns are for market followers

EclipseExecutiveDirectorMikeMilinkovichJava development tools affect and interest every Java developer, and Eclipse is easily the most commonly used development tool.

On 7th Nov 06, Eclipse celebrates its 5th birthday, and on this occassion IndicThreads spoke to Mike Milinkovich, the executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. Mike took charge in June 2004 and has been instrumental in driving Eclipse adoption.

Mike talks about the current state of Eclipse and what to expect from it in the near future. He also shares his thoughts on Eclipse adoption and how Eclipse enables development of innovative software solutions. As for competition from other IDEs and the NetBeans switch campaign, he says “Switching campaigns are what the market followers do. We are frankly more focused on closing in on the adoption and usage rates of Visual Studio”

IndicThreads >> Hi Mike! Welcome to IndicThreads. Eclipse began life as a Java IDE platform but it seems to have moved away from that definition over the past few years. How would you define Eclipse today?

Mike Milinkovich >> The original vision of Eclipse has always been to be much more than just a Java IDE. The original vision at the time Eclipse was first launched was to provide a tools integration platform for many languages and environments. Don’t forget that our C/C++ tools project started in 2002. With the release of the Eclipse Rich Client Platform (RCP) in 2004, Eclipse became a platform for building and integrating applications. The Java IDE (JDT) is really just an example of an application; we call it an exemplary application. The nice thing is that it is a really really good example.

“Eclipse is well on the way to being a universally deployed development tools platform…”

Today, Eclipse is well on the way of achieving the vision of being a universally deployed development tools platform. Most major software vendors that provide tools, with the exception of Microsoft, are using Eclipse as the basis of the tools solutions. And the rapid adoption of RCP as an applications platform has been impressive.

IndicThreads >> Apart from Java IDEs being built over Eclipse, we now see a number of other applications also being built over it. Could you tell us why Eclipse is suited for such applications? Any particular examples?

Mike Milinkovich >> Eclipse RCP offers a very nice set of frameworks and components for building and integrating applications. To name just a few of the core frameworks Eclipse Equinox provides a flexible and efficient component runtime based on the OSGi standard, the Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) provides platform-portable GUIs with high fidelity to the underlying operating system, and the UpdateManager provides a mechanism to update deployed applications.

“Eclipse RCP offers a very nice set of frameworks and components for building and integrating applications…”

We see RCP being used for a wide variety of things. Just recently we came across a guy who was going to Antarctica and had developed a piece of software to analyze ice cores that they were drilling. All of the software had been built on Eclipse RCP. Other examples include JP Morgan who are building banking applications for their foreign currency exchange traders. Of course Eclipse is being used to build all sort of developer oriented tools, like UML modeling, MDA tools, BPEL designers, etc but it is also being used to build scientific and business oriented applications.

IndicThreads >> What is Callisto and how is it different from the Eclipse that developers have used for years?

Mike Milinkovich >> Callisto was the name of our release train that occurred this past June. It included the coordinated releases of 10 Eclipse projects on the same day. The goal was to make it easy and simple for Eclipse developers that use Eclipse to have updates available for all of the main projects at the same time.

“Callisto coordinated releases of 10 Eclipse projects on the same day…”

By co-ordinating a simultaneous release, developers no longer had to wait until all the different projects they are using were available. We also improved the download and install experience so that developers could more easily install the project combinations they wanted from Eclipse.

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IndicThreads >> As Eclipse has moved beyond Java, could you tell us about the various kinds of software development possible using Eclipse?

Mike Milinkovich >> One area that I am personally quite excited about is PHP development. About a year ago Zend started the PHP IDE project at Eclipse, and the team is getting ready to ship their first major release.

“I am personally quite excited about PHP development with Eclipse…”

Historically, Eclipse is best known in the enterprise development space with tools for Java, JEE, Web Services, etc. But in fact, Eclipse is just as widely adopted in embedded and mobile device software development. We see a lot of developers that build applications for embedded and mobile devices use Eclipse as their tools platform. The major players in the embedded and mobile market have standardized on Eclipse, including Nokia, Motorola, Wind River, QNX, Monta Vista, ARM, TI, SonyEricsson, etc.

“Eclipse is widely adopted in embedded and mobile device software development..”

IndicThreads >> Some time back NetBeans launched a ‘switch’ campaign to encourage developers to switch from Eclipse to NetBeans. Does Eclipse have a “Why you should not switch” list?

Mike Milinkovich >> No, we have seen no need. Switching campaigns are what the market followers do. We’re frankly more focused on closing in on the adoption and usage rates of Visual Studio.

“Switching campaigns are what the market followers do…”

EclipseDirectorIndicThreads >> With NetBeans and Eclipse being dominant in the Java IDE market, how do you see this affect the Java IDE market as a whole? Are we seeing a reduction in choice for the developer?

Mike Milinkovich >> Developers today have lots of choice and in some way maybe even more choice because of Eclipse. Companies like IBM, BEA, Borland, SAP and smaller companies like Genuitec, Instantiations, Exadel and many more are creating innovative Java developer tools on top of Eclipse. Eclipse makes it easier for these companies to create innovative solutions and not have to reinvent the wheel on the core IDE functionality.

“Eclipse makes it easier to create innovative solutions and not have to reinvent the wheel…”

IndicThreads >> Where do you see Eclipse going from here? Do you see Ajax and Web 2.0 having an impact?

Mike Milinkovich >> We’re very excited about some of the projects at Eclipse related to Ajax. Our Ajax Toolkit Framework (ATF) project provides the best tooling solution available today for Ajax edit, compile and debug. ATF works with most of the primary Ajax frameworks such as Dojo, OpenRico and Zimbra. So Eclipse is quickly emerging as the tools platform for AJAX. We are also seeing commercial vendors like ActiveGuard building their tools on Eclipse.

“Our Ajax Toolkit Framework (ATF) project provides the best tooling solution available today for Ajax edit, compile and debug…”

The Rich Ajax Platform (RAP) project provides an Ajax runtime project that leverages the Eclipse plug-in architecture to provide a familiar component-based programming model for Ajax application development.

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IndicThreads >> With Ruby on Rails and the growing importance of scripting languages, is Eclipse planning on better support for these?

Mike Milinkovich >> For Ruby on Rails specifically, the RADRails tool is built on top of Eclipse and has a great following amongst the Rails community.

“I can’t think of a scripting language that doesn’t have an Eclipse plug-in available…”

Eclipse already has excellent support for virtually all of the dynamic scripting languages. There are countless Javascript editors that are Eclipse plug-ins, there are Eclipse IDEs for PHP, Python, Pearl, Ruby on Rails, etc. In fact, I can’t think of a scripting language that doesn’t have an Eclipse plug-in available for it.

IndicThreads >> What do you think are the most interesting features lined up in Eclipse releases in the near future?

Mike Milinkovich >> We are still in the planning stage for our next release, called Europa, so it is a bit too early to tell. We see a lot of interesting technology around the Eclipse Rich Client Platform and Eclipse Equinox, Mylar is a really interesting Eclipse project that adds a task oriented UI to your Eclipse environment . I also think you will be seeing our projects around SOA and Application Lifecycle Management release some innovative new technologies as well..

“Projects around SOA and Application Lifecycle Management will release some innovative new technologies…”

IndicThreads >> Some time back it was reported that over 90% of commiters on Eclipse are full time employees of member companies. Is that still the case? How do you think being open source helps Eclipse grow?

Mike Milinkovich >> We have just over 750 committers and around 85% are full time employees of companies, not necessarily member companies.

“Eclipse has 750 committers…”

Being open source is fundamental to our growth. In many ways Eclipse has proven that a truly vendor-neutral, open and transparent governance model allows companies to leverage open source as a viable option for building product-ready software.

IndicThreads >> Thanks for sharing info on Eclpse and your thoughts on the Java IDE market.

Mike Milinkovich >> No problem. Glad to do it.

IndicThreads >> On behalf of IndicThreads and our readers, here’s wishing Eclipse a very happy fifth birthday!

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