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A True Sea Change

I'm currently at EclipseCon (, the conference surrounding the adoption and use of the Eclipse framework and its collateral projects. I call it a framework because not even the most jaded person can call it simply an IDE any more. This is true even though those who have downloaded and used Eclipse have done so in order to develop software applications, mostly Java-related applications.

But there is no doubt that Eclipse is targeting much more than just another IDE. This can be seen by examining the growing list of projects that are being established by the Eclipse membership. These include the Web Tools project, the Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools project, and the Test and Performance project. With over a thousand attendees, and dozens of technical and business sessions, this conference has to be about more than yet another IDE.

The immediate goal for Eclipse is beyond that of an IDE. With the establishment of these and other projects, Eclipse has moved past the traditional IDE and has made great strides toward becoming a true application lifecycle platform. It hosts tools for the software developer, tester, integrator, and application administrator. There were also a number of embedded software vendors (QNX Software Systems and Wind River were prominently represented) hosting C/C++ compilers and tools for building deeply embedded systems. So expect that other languages will be hosted in Eclipse, and for purposes well beyond building enterprise applications.

But perhaps the most interesting revelation on my part of the Rich Client Platform (RCP), a version of the Eclipse framework without any of the development plug-ins. Some bright person had the idea that this might make a dandy host to individual applications. A representative from Scapa Technologies pointed out that it had many of the characteristics of a client operating system, but I think that stretched credulity a little far. Even so, the thought of using the RCP as a foundation for application development is very appealing.

There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from the events of the past couple of days. First, it's pretty clear that anyone looking for vitality in a Java IDE should look toward Eclipse. With the multiple projects, contributions by a number of commercial vendors, and a wealth of interest and energy, most future advances are likely to find their way to Eclipse first.

Second, any application lifecycle vendor who doesn't recognize this vitality and hasn't yet figured out a business model for making money from Eclipse is going to get left in the dust. It won't be much longer until customers demand Eclipse, because they are already familiar with it, or because they can customize it for their own unique uses, or because they realize that they don't have to pay for the framework.

There are other interesting things being said here, and other conclusions to be drawn, and I'll touch upon some of them in future entries.

Posted by Peter Varhol on 03/02/2005

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