Is Eclipse in Suns Future?

Sources say the company may be closer than ever to joining the open-source Java development platform effort.

Will Sun Microsystems Inc. join the Eclipse open-source Java development platform effort?

Sources close to the company said despite Suns official decline of an invitation to join Eclipse last month, the company is still looking to join and may be closer now than ever, as the Eclipse Consortium is on the verge of transitioning to the Eclipse Foundation and ratifying a new board—a process that is slated to begin as early as next week at the EclipseCon 2004 conference in Anaheim, Calif.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead "Eclipse Platform Ready to Forge Its Own Path."

"Given the removal of business obstacles, Sun would be in there [the Eclipse organization] in a flash," said a source close to Sun. The source compared the situation between Eclipse and Sun, which has its own NetBeans open-source application development platform effort, as more akin to the situation involving the GNOME and KDE open-source Linux desktops.

/zimages/1/28571.gifCheck out "KDE, GNOME Both Needed."

Earlier this month, James Gosling, a Sun fellow and vice president of the company, told reporters during a press call that Sun was still considering joining Eclipse and that talks were ongoing.

According to sources, Sun has promised to pay "a kings ransom" and to make considerable concessions, but the Eclipse group is refusing to relent on one or two key issues.

In a recent interview with eWEEK, Skip McGaughey, chairman of Eclipse, said there will be two levels of strategic partners in the new Eclipse Foundation, which must commit developers and pay up to a maximum of $250,000 to assume this level of membership.

In addition, McGaughey said members of the organization will have to commit to providing a commercial product that supports Eclipse within 12 months of joining.

This point, analysts and observers said, is likely a major sticking point for Sun, which has invested heavily in NetBeans and would essentially have to abandon that work to focus on an Eclipse-based technology.

"Unless Sun had been secretly working on a product on their competitors platform for some time—as likely as Microsoft making Office for Solaris—theyd be unlikely to be able to meet that timeframe," said an industry source who requested anonymity.

Next page: Java tools vendors should "just get along."