We all like to trumpet ourselves when we predict some technology as “the next greatest thing.” It takes a special kind of character, though, to stand up and admit when you’re wrong. Well, that’s what we do today as we mark in these pages the 10th anniversary of the Eclipse project. The acknowledged Java IDE leader as well as the open-source foundation upon which numerous companies have been built, Eclipse remade the Java tools industry with the commercialization of its efforts at its very core.
We’d love to be able to say here unequivocally that we saw this coming. We did not. We saw Eclipse as IBM’s competitive response to NetBeans—Sun Microsystems’ open-source multi-vendor collaboration on Java tools—and felt Eclipse would be bad for the industry! Remember the time: It was the world (including the Java world) against Microsoft. Best-of-breed tool choices versus vendor lock-in. We felt it was in the Java world’s best interest for Eclipse and NetBeans to join forces to win the battle against Microsoft, not for Java to fork and community efforts to be diluted.
In a December 2001 editorial written shortly after IBM said it was releasing Eclipse as an open-source effort, we stated:
“After IBM announced the Eclipse Project, Sun had two possible reactions.
First, the high road: Sun might have embraced Eclipse as bringing diversity to the Java community, thereby offering customers greater choice and fostering competitive innovation—the focal point of its long campaign against Microsoft. In doing so, Sun would have strengthened the Java platform’s appeal, as well as made itself look truly like a champion of openness.
Second, the low road: Sun might have attacked Eclipse, using the opportunity to promote its own set of Java tools and initiatives. This tactic, while good for the sales of Sun’s Forte for Java product family, would do nothing to bolster Sun’s claims of supporting Java as an open multi-vendor initiative.
By taking the latter approach, Sun demonstrated serious hypocrisy.”
When it became clear that the two projects would not come together, we can take some small measure of satisfaction in predicting in an October 2002 editorial that Eclipse would win the fight with NetBeans: