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Eclipse dreams up new schemes of disruption

First five years was a warm up

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After turning the Java tools market upside down and putting more than a few people out of work in its first five years, Eclipse hopes to cause more mischief during its next five.

Eclipse executive director Mike Milinkovich has earmarked three burgeoning open source projects in the areas of web development, Web 2.0 and on the desktop he feels could emulate the early success of Eclipse's C/C++ and Java tools.

Speaking on the anniversary of IBM's $40m code donation that made Eclipse, Milinkovich told The Register the goal is to create more successful projects. He highlighted the PHP IDE, AJAX Toolkit Framework and Rich Client Platform (RCP) initiatives as strong contenders.

"Our priorities [in the future] are we want to see a couple of projects at Eclipse become as widely successful... Windows CDT [C/C++ Development Tools Project] and Java tools are there. Our goal is to help nurture more projects," Milinkovich said.

In five short years Eclipse has grown to 150 members, there are an estimated 1,300 Eclipse-based products, and downloads of the Eclipse SDK average 10 times more than rival NetBeans from Sun Microsystems.

Eclipse has challenged the economics of the tools market, forcing at least one vendor out of business and many other big names to get on board or go bust trying to fighting it. Eclipse's growth also forced Sun to step-up the pace on its long-neglected NetBeans once it refused to join the IBM-backed group.

What began as a crudely engineered IBM attempt to undermine Sun's dominance of Java through the Java Community Process (JCP) was quickly seized upon by ISVs and developers as a handy way to reduce IDE R&D.

Eclipse provided a common, open infrastructure for organizations that needed a tools framework but didn't want to spend the time or money building or maintaining an IDE - companies like SAP and SAS, who are members. Hence, rapid growth.

Such was the potential, Eclipse quickly exceeded its Java/CDT remit and moved into lifecycle management, desktop clients and business intelligence. There are now 66 projects.

Eclipse has forced closed-source Java companies to fundamentally re-assess the whole notion of charging a license fee for an IDE. Remember WebGain? Already wounded by questionable management and architectural decisions, WebGain sources told me in 2001 they were shutting down because the company couldn't keep up with the community on innovation or justify charging for tools.

BEA Systems, one of the leading application server vendors pushing its own Java web services "development environment" WebLogic Workshop, and Borland - the Java tools market number-one - woke up to this realty in early 2005 when they became strategic members of Eclipse and announced backing for projects that played to their product and market strengths. Also joining were CA, Sybase and Wind River. That was one Eclipse's pivotal moments according to Milinkovich.

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