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Next Eclipse platform could slip IBM's grip

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The next big release of Eclipse could see IBM's overwhelming dominance of the open source tools platform reduced, according to the foundation's chief.

Mike Milinkovich hopes e4, as it's being called, will introduce a simple code base that's accessible to a wide pool of developers and reduces reliance on IBMers with an intimate working and historical knowledge of the current, huge 3.x code base.

IBM started Eclipse in 2001 by donating three million lines of code from its VisualAge Java tool and has since expanded to 17 million lines with last year's release of the Europa update. IBM currently dominates work on the tools platform project, with 80 per cent of 170 committers being paid, full-time IBM employees. It's not clear, though, how many of these committers are actually considered active.

Milinkovich was speaking after a bout of bloodletting in the Eclipse blogosphere over an apparent attempt by IBM to shanghai e4 with a new code base that was presented as a fait accompli by 17 IBM-based committers ahead of next week's EclipseCon.

"The problem is the 3.x [version of Eclipse], in its current form, is a very complex piece of code... the team that works on it is extremely good. What's difficult for a community member is to get noticed and pulled into that," Milinkovich said.

"e4 gives us the opportunity to get off to a new start because it will be new code. It's an opportunity to get greater diversity into the community."

Milinkovich welcomed the dust up saying it helped reminded everyone that Eclipse is a community and people had to work together.

There's no date for delivery of e4, and Milinkovich said the 3.x platform will be with us for a "long time" - version 3.4 is due at the end of June. Milinkovich said discussions at EclipseCon would focus on what version 4.0 "could" be like.

He added the IBMers and other contributors who'd announced their e4 code contribution had picked their words badly, and given the impression e4 is more advanced than it is. "They made it sound like, rather than coming to EclipseCon with demo code, they were much further along in their thinking," Milinkovich said.®

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