Thursday, March 17, 2005

No offense intended, just Microsoft rivalry IBM on Eclipse

No offense intended, just Microsoft rivalry IBM on Eclipse
IBM Corp has denied its naming of Eclipse and adoption of a lesser-used Java technology was a deliberate sleight against competitor Sun Microsystems Inc.

Speaking at EclipseCon 2005 yesterday, Lee Nackman one of the individuals involved in the launch of Eclipse said IBM founded the group to help unite the Java tools community in the face of a growing competitive threat from Microsoft Corp.

"It might have been the perception [that IBM deliberately named Eclipse to rival Sun] but that was not true," Nackman told ComputerWire. "We were more focused on building an alternative to Microsoft."

IBM announced Eclipse in late 2001, employing a name that was perceived as a deliberate insult to Sun. The group also adopted the Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) Java interface technology, which has relatively less use than the rival Swing architecture.

Swing is part of Sun and the Java Community Processes' Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) specification. J2SE, itself, is used in desktop Java applications and provides the foundation of the server-side Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) platform.

It was somewhat unsurprising, given this background, that Sun has chosen to remain a non-member of Eclipse.

And, if Eclipse was intended to overshadow Sun and wrestle control of Java away from Sun, then it would seem IBM has succeeded in its goal.

Today almost 100 companies are Eclipse members, with vendors spanning enterprise hardware and software and a roster of names including SAP, SAS and Intel.

IBM also stands to benefit substantially from both the Eclipse platform and the community that has sprung up around it. IBM Rational's Software Modeler and Rational Software Architect, Rational Web Developer and Rational Application Developer for the web, and the Rational Manual Tester are all based on Eclipse, while the Rational Performance Tester is due to run on Eclipse in the second quarter of this year.

Being based on Eclipse means Rational can not only make its own disparate family of tools plug-in more easily to each other, but it also enables third parties to snap-in, easily expanding the functionality of the Rational suite without lots of engineering work.

Sun, by contrast, continues to cling to its NetBeans open source tools framework that is used, almost exclusively, by Sun.

Speaking in Burlingame, California yesterday, Nackman, IBM Rational's chief technology officer and vice president of construction and test tools development, claimed IBM created Eclipse to benefit the community not to cause waves with Sun.

"There was tremendous fragmentation in the Java tools space and we were all [re-inventing] the same things over and over again, while Microsoft was busy pushing ahead. We wanted to build an ecosystem system," Nackman said.

Nackman believes Eclipse has unleashed a wave of innovation that has helped re-invigorate Java - according to analysts and ISVs development in Java had plateaued in recent years.

Eclipse started life as a Java and C/C++ tools framework project. The group now, though, has morphed to encompass many more projects outside of pure tools, including web development, business intelligence and application lifecycle management.

Nackman said he and others picked SWT instead of SWT for a pragmatic technical reason. According to Nackman, SWT allows Eclipse-based software to access widgets in the underlying operating system in a way Microsoft tools also access widgets.

The rival Swing Java architecture only emulates widgets, potentially slowing performance of applications and interfaces that use Swing.

"We picked [SWT] because we wanted to have Eclipse to be comparable with what Microsoft would do - Microsoft always evolves the widget set in the operating system," Nackman said.

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