Eclipse packs an open-source arsenal.As the Eclipse open-source tools initiative leaves the cradle of its IBM-led consortium to become an independent, nonprofit corporation, it deserves a second look from those who have previously pooh-poohed its potential. Eclipse creators, partners and users who meet this week at the EclipseCon event are now free to follow any path that enterprise needs and technology opportunities combine to offer. IT buyers will benefit. Before last months disclosure of the Eclipse Foundation spinoff, scheduled to be formally announced this week, it was easy to perceive Eclipse as merely the extensible development environment of IBMs WebSphere product line. Although it provided an opportunity for independent toolmakers to put their talents to work in complementary ways, so did Microsofts Visual Studio or Borlands JBuilder or any number of other popular and capable frameworks. Eclipse needed to offer a convincing edge, not only in technical capability but also in ideological appeal as an exemplar of the momentum of open standards.
But Eclipse was not universally welcomed, even by those who shared the goal of challenging Microsofts dominance of developer mind share. Two years ago, Sun Microsystems Chief Technology Evangelist Simon Phipps was quoted as calling it "a carbon copy" of Suns NetBeans integration platform and saying IBM was malicious or negligent in excluding Sunwhich IBM denied doing. Even the Eclipse name begged the question of who, or what, was meant to be overshadowed, even if IBM personnel asserted that only former proprietary techniques and tools were meant to find themselves in the umbra.