Eclipse Moves Ahead

Eclipse developers hail the platform and offer a peek at its next version.

The Eclipse open-source development platform entered a new era last week. At the first Eclipse developer conference here, leading Eclipse developers praised the newly independent Eclipse organization and offered glimpses of things to come in the next version of the platform, 3.0.

Erich Gamma, Java Development Tools leader for Eclipse, and John Wiegand, Eclipse platform leader, said in addresses that the new Eclipse Foundation will foster some of the values of the open-source movement: meritocracy, open participation and transparency.

The duo also shared several peeks at Eclipse 3.0, which is scheduled for release around June.

Among the key new pieces of functionality in Eclipse 3.0 will be Swing/SWT (Standard Widget Toolkit) interoperability, Wiegand said. The issue of interoperability between Swing and SWT is making news these days, as Sun Microsystems Inc., which supports Swing, is looking at joining or working with the Eclipse Foundation.

Swing and SWT are dueling Java GUI libraries. Swing is Suns technology and part of Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition; SWT is the IBM-backed library that is part of the Eclipse platform.

"Theres a lot of interest," Wiegand said. "People want to use Swing in an Eclipse context."

In addition, Gamma said, Eclipse 3.0 will feature user interface scalability enhancements and a more responsive user interface.

Wiegand said Eclipse 3.0 will feature API stability and compatibility. "Wed like [Eclipse] 2.x users to be able to use their plug-ins in 3.0," he said. "We take this very seriously."

The Eclipse Foundation is setting up its board, selecting an executive director and establishing road maps for projects under way. Foundation officials said Eclipse will establish a board of directors drawn from four classes of membership: strategic developers, strategic consumers, add-in providers and open-source project leaders.

The founding members are Ericsson AB, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Intel Corp., MontaVista Software Inc., QNX Software Systems Ltd., SAP AG and Serena Software Inc. In the coming weeks, the board will announce its selection of a full-time executive director to lead the Eclipse management organization.

Other industry experts praised the future of Eclipse as a means to unite the previously divisive communities of Java and open-source developers. Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer at Red Hat Inc., of Raleigh, N.C., said that Eclipse has arrived at a critical point in terms of developer attraction and impact on the industry.

"I believe the Eclipse tipping point has just begun. Were still at the beginning of what things can benefit from it. It creates a global, distributed and open platform for being able to apply Moores Law to software," Tiemann said.

Tiemann said having the IBM-led Eclipse Consortium spin off into the independent Eclipse Foundation is "an important bridge between [the open-source and Java] communities." Open-source developers are now free to use better tools, make better tools and benefit from integration, he said.

Bringing the Java and open-source communities together "will break the barriers" of allowing only one set of development practices to be used in certain communities, Tiemann said.

"Well see Eclipse build its own brand," Tiemann said. "The open-source community felt rejected by Java. If Eclipse does do something different, its to provide a home for Java in the open-source community and to provide a home for Java developers."

Also at EclipseCon, Simon Phipps, the chief technology evangelist for Sun, addressed a wary audience, telling them that although Sun has no plans to make Eclipse products, the company would still be interested in joining the Eclipse Foundation if certain "business conditions" were met. Phipps said that "secret negotiations" continue.

Phipps gave a lecture on open source and the value of diversity within the Java community, in a setting where the key question among many attendees was whether Sun would join Eclipse. When asked at the end of his presentation, Phipps took the question head-on: "IBM and Sun compete with each other," he said.

"Sun is not going to use Eclipse. ... Sun doesnt intend to produce an Eclipse product," Phipps said. "Today, I think the best thing would be for the newly independent Eclipse to join the Java Tools Community and then have Eclipse join the Java Community Process."

Phipps said there is room for both Suns NetBeans open-source development platform and Eclipse. "Our strength lies in our diversity, and were here to make the Java market succeed," he said.