Eclipsing Beans

This last week the drums were rolling for IBMs Eclipse, an Open Source IDE for Java. Wait … IBM has broken all connections to Eclipse, has it not ??? This is an independently run organization. Yeah … and the recent set of announcements on Eclipse topped off by another huge set of a giveaways from IBM were purely coincidental.

IBM is hugely dependent on Java across all hardware and software product lines. But Sun controls Java through a reasonably open JCP-Java Community Process(for comparison consider what the Desktop Dictators have been doing with IE over the past 6 years). But IBM does not hold sway over Javas evolution and development as closely as it would like. So Eclipse is its playing card to wrest more java control back to Armonk. This is necessary because IBMs calls for Java to be open sourced have been denied.

There is a substantial reason for Suns refusal to Open Source which IBM and cohorts choose to ignore or skate around. Back in the late 1990s when Microsoft attacked and according to Redmonds own emails deliberately polluted the JVM on the desktop – IBM and Oracle and BEA and other major vendors who had and have since profited mightily from their Java use – all these “friends of Java” refused to stand up against the Redmond s IE corruption attack. These “friends of Java” should have made it clear to Redmond that if IE was not going to use the latest Sun JVM, then they, and by recommendation their clients, would not be using IE. Opera and a number of other fairly good, cross-platform browser replacements were available. For this reason and other important diversionary trends, Sun has rightfully concluded that Open Sourcing Java is not the right move. Given Microsofts open enmity to cross platform and interoperable programming and/or scripting languages, Keep an Open Eye concurs with Sun.

In essence we are saying that IBM could have had a much more compelling case for Open Source Java, if it had acted as a responsible player . But Lou Gerstner and the IBM excutive team chose otherwise … and so now they are trying to wrest more control by controling the Open Source Java IDE. But even here they are having mixed results.

Ecilpsing the Beans

There are many different and compelling Java IDEs. Borlands JBuilder stays ahead of the game as one of the most versatile Java development tools from mobile through J2EE to desktop apps. many purists and Extreme Programming enthusiasts believe that JetBrains IntelliJ has hit the sweet spot of code and test tools especially with its refactoring aids and test harnesses. Others looking for indutrail strength development will swear by the direction Compuwares OptimalJ is taking in the MDA-Model Driven Application development arena. And Suns Java Studio Creator really does provide some nifty development design and code tools and embellishements.

But the two major Open Source Java IDEs are Eclipse and NetBeans – respectively sponsored by IBM and Sun. And these tools, in the race to out do each other (so called Eclipsing the Beans competition) are getting so good that the commercial Java IDEs cited above have to watch out what is arriving on the scene at no cost – other than the time to learn them.

And that is is the most interesting trend – the Open Source tools are bending over backwards to make development easy to do, easy to learn , easy to specialize in with simple to attach extensions. The net result is that Java is now not only the closest thing to write once run anywhere (Java truly delivers here when the hardware is on the same scale – Pentium to Power to Sparc to zSeries); but also is rapidly becoming the most extensible and customizable environ.

Borland, Compuware and even Sun do not want huge 3rd party tools and extensions because that constrains where they can easily expand to. But Eclipse and NetBeans certainly do … its part of the Open Source tradition . And so with the two IDEs delivering Visual Designers, advanced profiling, ever more substantial Web Services, J2EE, plus profiling and testing tools – couple this with the huge library of Open Source Java devlopment application (see JavaOpens), and Java becomes a most compelling development environ despite the Open Source IDE squabbles.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005

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