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Eclipse now and in the future: an interview with Mike Milinkovich

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Eclipse now and in the future

Part 2 of an interview with Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director of the Eclipse Foundation, an open source project which provides a platform for tools integration. To jump back to part 1, click here.

Why choose Eclipse?

Tim: If Iím a developer and Iím choosing a Java IDE, why would I choose Eclipse?

Mike: There are two areas where I think there are distinctive benefits. The first is the quality of the software itself. If youíve done any background work on Eclipse youíll see that we win lots of awards and get lots of kudos for shipping a very strong toolset. There are people that like the stuff that they get for free from Eclipse significantly better than what you could pay a lot of money for, from a commercial product.

Tim: After all, the cost of the development tool isnít usually a large part of the development budget.

Mike: Exactly. If youíre outfitting a large number of developers people do look at the price, that is a factor, but the productivity of your development team, for any company that is significantly invested in software, the productivity of your development team far outweighs the initial cost of the licenses. But the second major point, and this is the one that really sets Eclipse aside, is the fact that itís not just a tool. It is an open platform for tool integration. And Eclipse has been enormously successful in creating an ecosystem around the basic tool platform to enable lots of plug-ins, whether those plug-ins come from commercial providers or additional open-source projects. When you become invested in Eclipse youíre not just getting invested in the out-of-the-box toolset, youíre getting invested in an entire community of additional functionality. Thatís the killer benefit.

Tim: There are other open-source development environments. What is unique about Eclipse?

Mike: Its success. When you say ďother open source projectsĒ I assume you are thinking of Netbeans. If you look at the number of plug-ins provided, the depth and breadth of the additional tools you can get on top of it, the depth and breadth of the ecosystem which surrounds it, it pales in comparison to Eclipse.

Tim: What share of the Java tools market does Eclipse have?

Mike: We do not know the number of users, and thatís by design. When people download from Eclipse, because weíre an open source project, we donít ask them to register or provide any information, so we donít keep records on who has downloaded our software. We donít have any accurate way to say who is using Eclipse. But in terms of market share, Iíve seen a number of different sets of numbers over the last couple of months. If you define the market as being people who are writing Java code and have a toolset on their desk, the most conservative number Iíve seen is that weíre 50% of that market. Iíve also seen numbers ranging as high as 65%.

But I think most importantly, weíre the one thatís growing, we have the momentum. Iíve seen lots of articles and editorials that say thereís two toolsets, Microsoft Visual Studio .NET and Eclipse. By the way, even people who you might not think of as Eclipse supporters recognise that and are working that. The example that comes to mind is Borland. When I was at JavaOne, at the JavaPro roundtable, I canít remember the exact words but itís in the transcript. Boz Elloy from Borland was saying that Eclipse is the number one thing thatís happening in Java tools right now and you have to accept that and you have to build your business around that.

I think part of the reason Eclipse is successful is because right from day one the people working on Eclipse made this conscious and explicit effort to foster this commercial ecosystem around Eclipse. And itís been that synergy between the open source project and the people building commercial products on top of that open source project that really allowed Eclipse to get the adoption rate that it has achieved.

Click here for part 3 of this interview

Copyright © 2004 Tim Anderson