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Eclipse developers are to become the beneficiaries of IBM's first support package for the platform.

IBM, which helped create the open source platform in 2001, is to pilot a support program for developers using the organization's tools plus commercial offerings running on Eclipse, such as IBM's Rational suite.

Details are yet to be finalized, but IBM told The Register that the services offered are likely to differ from IBM's support for Linux and Geronimo in the run-time world.

IBM's decision to offer support for Eclipse reflects the open source environment's growing presence among businesses - 30 per cent of enterprises and 25 per cent or so of small and medium businesses (SMBs) use Eclipse, analyst Evans Data Corp (EDC) estimates.

But it will have an interesting challenge in tackling price objections. This week at EclipseCon in Santa Clara, California, EDC said it had found little appetite for paid support from Eclipse users. Just over 30 per cent expect support to be free while a third said if they would pay anything at all, it must be less than $100.

The sticking point seems to be the need to pay to support for a tooling environment that has the perception of being "free".

John Kellerman, IBM's manager for Eclipse strategy, said IBM would evaluate pricing in the pilot. "I believe we will end up with a subscription-based offering - some notion of per seat. That seems to be where the thinking is coalescing," he said.

Who knows, a paid-support option from IBM could even fuel Eclipse take-up. According to Albion Butters, EDC senior analyst, IBM backing is a factor behind the current use of Eclipse. Its support has provided Eclipse with "credibility" he told EclipseCon delegates. ®

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