Swarms of vendors are clambering onto the Eclipse hype-wagon, hoping to surf a tsunami wave of plug-in profits. Where does that leave Java developers? Does anyone actually believe Borland, who basically admitted defeat
in the Java IDE world, is going to bring anything innovative to the table -- let alone give it away for free as open source?
More and more I see Eclipse as two entirely separate things: Eclipse the IDE, and Eclipse the plug-in platform. Developers see Eclipse as an alternative Java IDE which is free and open. Vendors see Eclipse as a platform for their plug-ins, which are not free and not open. That's quite a different perspective, and you can feel the difference in the hype of today versus the buzz of last year.
Last year the buzz was about Eclipse finally gaining independence from IBM, becoming non-profit, and forging ahead with its free and open-source vision. This year, the marketing hype almost reminds me of the pre-bust "New Economy" buzzwords of not too long ago. "Strategic partners", "ecosystems", and no doubt "lasers".
Lots of people assume that the hype involving the plug-in platform will automatically translate into more-useful plug-ins for the IDE, but they forget that these shiny proprietary plug-ins will not be free or open source, and they're not going to be integrated with the other vendors' proprietary plug-ins. In a worst-case scenario, you would end up with the worst of both worlds: Expensive tools that don't work well together. Who would want that?
So, when you read the next news release, or quotes from some big-wig in some industry trade rag, prick up your ears, but pay attention to what they're saying behind
what they're saying. It's all about money, my friends, and anyone who tells you different is selling you something. (I'm selling you something too, but I'll get to that later. And at least I'm up front about it! ;-)
Here's an example of what I mean. This so-called article
(News.com) touts Eclipse as "the center of innovation in the Java tools industry", and one VP, who shall remain nameless to avoid embarrassment, said "'It's over,' ... referring to competition in the Java tools industry." Umm, excuse me, we're the competition and it's not
An interesting discussion
arose over the article at Javalobby
. Graham Lea comments
, "Firstly, would anyone really say something is a 'center of innovation in the Java tools industry' without being paid to say it, or at the very least given a script? ... Secondly, what's all this hullabaloo about a 'platform'? I want to cut code fast and easily and I don't really care if the IDE is built on a flexible platform or not - it makes no difference to my use of the IDE."
The News.com article goes on to glorify the Eclipse members and all but bad-mouth Sun (who is not an Eclipse member). This is not about developers at all, this is a PR war. Who's behind it? Tim Boudreau, a developer of Sun's NetBeans
, has his theory
, and writes "A good rule of thumb for this sort of thing might be, never believe anything you read about developer tools that isn't written by someone who develops software for a living."
And that's what it all boils down to: Developers. Hype doesn't help developers write code. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Eclipse is all hype. I'm saying that at the end of the day, developers need the best IDE for the job, regardless of the hype. Eclipse, as a plug-in platform, is a great opportunity for vendors, but it's not an IDE. Eclipse, the free and open Java IDE, still lags behind IntelliJ IDEA
and will probably continue to do so, in my opinion. Eclipse tries to be everything for everybody. IDEA only tries to be the best, most intelligent, most usable Java/J2EE IDE. Anyone who's a professional Java developer, serious about productivity, should try both IDEA
and choose the best IDE for the job (and of course, personal preference).
Finally, to put this hype in perspective once and for all, Graham Lea again writes
, "the current form of IDEs exists only because of the paradigm shift IDEA started about 4 years ago. It's only a matter of time before someone releases something that blows our minds again, and then Eclipse will just be the free old-school editor that only that 30-something guy in the corner uses (ala. emacs today)."
"Develop with pleasure!"