Eclipse Casts Shadow on Sun

The Eclipse open-source development platform is outshining Sun's NetBeans in terms of developer and vendor support, but Sun vows to continue to innovate around NetBeans.

Does Sun have lunar envy?

One would never know, but given the momentum generated by the Eclipse juggernaut with the Eclipse Foundations signing of big guns like BEA Systems and Sybase, and its garnering deeper support from Borland at its EclipseCon 2005 conference in March, it would be hard not to envy Eclipse.

The Eclipse open-source development platform has far outdistanced Sun Microsystems Inc.s NetBeans in terms of developer and vendor support, but Sun has vowed to continue to innovate around NetBeans while practically everybody else in the Java world is supporting Eclipse.

And this week Sun announced a new version of NetBeans. Newly announced NetBeans 4.1 touts support for J2SE (Java 2 Standard Edition) 5.0, tight integration with J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) 1.4 and support for J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) 2.0, as well as new wizards to help build Enterprise JavaBeans more easily, among other features.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about NetBeans 4.1.

Meanwhile, by the end of next month, the Eclipse Foundation plans to deliver Version 3.1 of Eclipse, which will provide "dramatic" performance boosts, feature J2SE 5 support, and deliver enhanced tooling support in the Eclipse Plug-in Development Environment and Visual Editor projects for building and deploying RCP (Rich Client Platform) applications.

So the competition wages on.

After Eclipse threw this years EclipseCon bash in Burlingame, Calif., Sun a week later stood its ground and dropped a "me too" announcement touting community support for NetBeans.

But while Sun signals its resolve, the rest of the Java tools world is not moving to revolve around Sun.

"Can anybody ignore Eclipse?" asked Forrester analyst Carl Zetie in a session at the EclipseCon 2005 conference. "No," Zetie responded to his own question, and then added, "Maybe Microsoft."

But not even Microsoft can ignore it. The software giant sent an entourage to EclipseCon 2005 and delivered a talk about Visual Studio at the event.

And of the tools landscape, a Microsoft source said: "The game is not over, but when we think of developer ecosystems other than Visual Studio we think Eclipse. We dont think NetBeans."

New Eclipse Foundation members echoed that sentiment.

Jim Rivera, director of technology at BEA, said Eclipse momentum helped lead BEA to join. "Its critical for us to remove any barriers that exist for developers to build on top of our platform," he said.

Raaj Shinde, vice president of product strategy and architecture at Borland, said, "Theres a significant increase in the momentum of Eclipse.

And Pat Kerpan, Borlands chief technology officer, said Eclipse "might be the end of the constant retooling weve gone through over the years. … This could be the beginning of a framework that will live across multiple epochs to come."

Next Page: Can the Eclipse lovefest last?