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NewTech Viewpoints

Analysis: Java Development Gains Consistency Under Eclipse IDE

New open-source Java IDE effort seen as significant for Java developers worldwide

Related Articles: Commentary: Eclipse, a developer's dream?, Home of the Eclipse Project, The Eclipse Project Home Page, IBM makes $40 million open-source offer

Position: The open-source Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Java is very significant. The Eclipse project will likely dominate the Java developer community and influence non-Java development tools over time. IT managers need a complete understanding of the dynamics here to properly evaluate the role of Eclipse in the developer tools space.

Prediction: Eclipse will have an immediate impact on the Java development community, with the adoption of Eclipse to a place of dominance in the market no later than 3Q2002.


Eclipse is an open-source IDE for Java development. The dominant characteristic of Eclipse is the ability of the IDE to accept open-source plug-ins written by the Java developers themselves. This idea is not new and Microsoft’s Visual Studio has had this ability for over 2 years and Sun follows a similar strategy with their own NetBeans Platform. What is unique is the backing of many major players in the IT Community, with IBM, Rational, Susse Linux, and others leading the way. This will indeed create unique (and in some ways unpredictable) market dynamics.

Eclipse has the capability to run plug-ins written by developers that work seamlessly with different plug-ins written by other developers. Over time, it is likely that developers throughout the world will improve Eclipse quickly, via the open-source Eclipse Project Management Committee. Membership in the group is based on contribution and merit. In essence, Eclipse has the potential to give developers the wisdom of an entire development community, something that has had limited success to this point by other attempts.

Eclipse Could:

Deliver a Complete Project Lifecycle Workbench

The Eclipse IDE accommodates plug-ins that address every step of the development process. This means that from design to unit test, Eclipse will become a magnet for developer plug-ins. When Eclipse is capable of addressing the full project lifecycle with robust tools from multiple vendors, it will gather market mass and become a de facto standard workbench for Java developers.

Completely Unite the Java Developer Community

Unlike an operating system such as Linux, a developer IDE is a lightning rod for the rank-and-file. Eclipse has a lower barrier to entry in terms of developer involvement. Few developers have operating systems ideas, but many developers have innovative ideas for tools.

Any developer with an innovative idea and the knowledge to write a plug-in can alter the IDE and improve it. Further, the open-source nature of Eclipse provides at least the potential for developer fame. Any developer who writes an innovative plug-in automatically receives recognition by his peers. This dynamic will spur developers worldwide to focus attention on Eclipse development. This harnesses substantial and significant network effects that will propel quality and innovation in the Eclipse IDE.

Drive Down Hiring and Training Costs

Hiring managers can now standardize Java training around one universal IDE, and ask questions related to that IDE during the hiring interview process. This narrows the field of view necessary to train and hire developers. This is long overdue in the fragmented Java market. Eclipse will further standardize the Java talent pool.

Influence Platform Selection

Platform selection criteria includes the likely supply of developers for construction and maintenance tasks. Eclipse has the potential to standardize the pool of J2EE development talent around a single IDE much the same way Visual Basic accomplished this for Windows. This will likely influence platform selection decisions over time.

Strongly Influence Visual Studio and Microsoft

Visual Studio has had extensibility for a long time, but is not an open-source effort. When new innovations appear in the marketplace, they are quickly absorbed into the Visual Studio IDE. Over time, the details-of-origin of many development tool innovations are lost as all vendors copy these features.

Summary: Eclipse will shorten the development times, decrease the time to market on upgrades to existing Java code, and lessen the learning curve of Java developers over time. It has the potential to become a lightning rod in the Java market and influence platform selection by corporations.

Eclipse will harness the creative energy of thousands of developers worldwide. The Eclipse project will influence the development tools market for years to come and be a serious rival to Sun's NetBeans and Microsoft's .NET Platforms.

Prediction #1: Eclipse will have an immediate impact on the Java development community, with adoption taking place no later than the 3Q2002. IBM already has two products ready to go, one being the WebSphere Studio Application Developer, the other soon to be released is the WebSphere Studio Site Developer.

Prediction #2: Eclipse will gain adherents, and Microsoft will face the impact of Eclipse in a precise and structured way. By 4Q2002, it will be impossible to dismiss the impact Eclipse is making on the worldwide developer community. Expect Microsoft to consider an “embrace and extend” response to Eclipse. When open-source Eclipse gains immediate traction in the Java space, expect Microsoft to respond actively with a similar ‘half-open” source initiative for Visual Studio.

Prediction #3: Eclipse has the potential to alter the .NET/J2EE Platform adoption equation. Developers are expensive to hire and train, and are a large component of the overall system costs. Eclipse provides a universal Java developer platform that is extensible, and is not controlled by a single vendor. As the best extensions and tools become standard, Eclipse could become a major determining factor by organizations pondering the .NET/J2EE decision.

Related Articles: Commentary: Eclipse, a developer's dream?, Home of the Eclipse Project, The Eclipse Project Home Page, IBM makes $40 million open-source offer

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