Many in the Java community would argue that Eclipse was designed to put Suns Java development tools in their place. But for strictly Java Development, NetBeans and Java Studio Creatorhas lead Eclipse for both breadth and depth of features as well as Java innovations. Even with many third parties adding Open but often commercial extensions to Eclipse, Netbeans in particular has managed to lead the parade in many aspects of Java Development. Even GUI features and performance, a longtime Eclipse forte, has been superseded by AJAX, CSS, JSF, Matisse and soon JavaFX in b
However, as it turns out the real loser has been Visual Studio for two reasons. First, Microsoft has said to developers that despite Borland, Oracle, Compuserve, Sybase and other – there was not a single development tool that could match Visual Studio for its breadth of languages supported and design tools on board. Well, Visual Studio loses that argument to Eclipse which even in its free core tools can match and exceed, especially for cross platform interoperability, anything that Visual Studio can currently deliver. See the Enterprise Developer and Application Framework tools provide not only the Designer tools but also frameworks for free that match if not exceed what is the premium price spread in Visual Studio Strategic Edition. Likewise the Language IDE, Embedded Devices, and Rich Client Platform put Eclipse in the lead in support of languages (Aspect J and Cobol are not touched by VS) and devices support.
True the upcoming Orcas version of Visual Studio may bring comparative advantage against free versions of Eclipse, especially in the arenas of Expression-based GUI development and possibly some database/workflow features. But remember, Eclipse Europa version is due this summer and a whole new wave of design and language technologies including enhanced Cobol, PHP, Ruby and TCL supportwil be coming on stream. As well if you add commercial products then the advanatge clearly goes to Eclipse.
Take for example what Adobe and BEA are doing with Eclipse. Adobe is already proving AJAX, Flash/Flex, Cold Fusion, and Apollo extensions to Eclipse that support Web 2.0, Integration Server, and GUI Intergation which will match the Vista-primarily approach that is implied in the latest version Visual Studio. Windows developers that want to serve their Win 9.x, Win 2000 and Win XP customers are going to have some awfully tough decisions to make in the coming year. meanwhile BEA is extending its Beehive Open Source and Weblogic Workbench across its whole Aqualogic Designer and Services spaces. Again this will have cross platform and interoperability reach that Visual Studio cannot even pretend to have.
The second area that Microsoft could claim some leadership, in software innovation, it squandered with its deliberate thwarting of all aspects of Web development. Like IBMs mainframe mentality that Microsoft mocked a generation ago; Redmond has fallen victim to its everrything must run in a Windows PC client. The Smart Client has been Microsofts SAA. By thwarting acceptance and adopption of W3C and other Web standards, Microsoft has once again found itself looking in on and falling behind in Web 2.0, GUI Integration and BPM-Business Process Management innovations. In contrast, Eclipse with commercial tools from Adobe, BEA, Compuserve, IBM and many others is the pioneering place to be.
But to add insult to injury, Microsofts latest move to make it so that “everything must run in Windows best of all”, with its twisted logic of tight couplings among Windows services to achieve that end is just counter productive and against all the trends in business toward integration, interoperability and cross platform support. Microsoft is acting as if it had achieved a monopoly on servers and backend tools equal to its now crumbling OS desktop, IE browser and Office desktop monopolies. You can only afford to be the highest cost supplier, meanest licenser, and mixed EULA-gets-us-out-of-support supplier for so long. And Eclipse with its huge Open Source, free, and broadly supported base to say nothing of commercial vendors determined to bulwark themselves against the Microsoft/Open Source onslaught – both parties put the pressure on the high cost of doing business with Redmond. In sum, Eclipse has not only leveled the development tools playing field; but put it distinctly to Independent Software Vendors advantage.