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:
“Both projects offer a similar framework-plus-plug-ins approach. While NetBeans has a significant head start, the way their benefactors treat Eclipse and NetBeans leads us to believe that in the long term, Eclipse will be more successful.”
Today, Eclipse stands as perhaps the most successful example of community and commerce coming together to build an ecosystem unparalleled in its breadth and scope. Here’s to 10 surprising successful years. We can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Java and Eclipse.
Thanks for un-forking Android, Google
Who doesn’t love ice cream sandwiches? When Google detailed its plans for Android 4.0—Ice Cream Sandwich—at AnDevCon, many on hand were excited about the numerous new features and refinements. But at its core, the most exciting aspect of ICS is the fact that it will unfork the Android operating system. Ever since the first Android tablets running Honeycomb arrived, we’ve been living in two worlds: the phone world and the tablet world. And neither the twain shall meet.
Fortunately, ICS brings these two platforms back under one operating system. That’s a good thing, to be sure. But it’s also just scratching the surface of the problem. Back in the day, Linux was almost a victim of the same type of fragmentation that is harming Android.
With thousands of handsets and dozens of tablets, every one of them is running its own distinct flavor of Android. That means an HTC Android phone and a Motorola Android phone can look and feel so dissimilar, less-advanced users would be hard pressed to learn the interface paradigms of one phone by using another. Compare that to the iPhone, which has maintained a single version of its OS and interface since day one.
For Android to really win this battle, the reverse forking needs to continue. Whereas Linux was spread thin by distributions that all essentially used the same kernel, Android has become far more thinly spread. And it doesn’t help that after two years, your phone is basically dead and will never receive an updated version of Android, as evidenced by Google’s recent abandoning of the Nexus S.
So, while we’re thrilled ICS is reversing the fork trend, we hope Google understands that bit has a long way to go before the forks are all put away.