Borland, Macromedia back the Eclipse IDE

Borland Software Corp. and Macromedia Inc. are making commercial tools for the open-source Eclipse IDE.

Macromedia joined the Eclipse Foundation last month, unveiling a plug-in planned for Eclipse. Also in June, Borland unveiled an incarnation of Jbuilder, its Java IDE, code-named “Peloton” and engineered specifically for Eclipse. Macromedia’s Eclipse plug-in, code-named “Zorn,” links the company’s Flex presentation server, designed for rich Internet applications, to the open-source IDE.

The company’s Flex Builder IDE, in turn, will be discontinued after the expected 2006 debut of Zorn.

Macromedia also plans a companion product featuring the Eclipse IDE and the plug-in. The company vows a smooth transition for Flex Builder users. Released in March 2004, Flex has garnered 300 customers. But Macromedia recognizes the momentum of Eclipse.

“I think the biggest thing this will do for us is accelerate our adoption within existing customers because many of these customers have standardized on Eclipse as their IDE,” said John Whatcott, vice-president of product management at Macromedia.

According to Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at Waltham, Mass.-based IT advisory firm ZapThink, Zorn spells a new route for Macromedia.

“What makes [the Eclipse plug-in] compelling is that Macromedia is now targeting the mainstream developer audience for their rich user interface apps, whereas before they targeted a more specialized designer audience,” he said.

A Flex user expressed surprise when informed that Eclipse would supplant Flex Builder. “That’s interesting,” said Kendall Whitehouse, senior director of information technology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. But he expressed an openness to consider the Eclipse variation. ”[Flex is] appealing because of the kind of applications that you can build with it. The more they can make the development process easier, quicker, that’s all to the good,” Whitehouse said.

The university uses Flex to develop a drag-and-drop, online classroom-seating chart. Macromedia is joining Eclipse as an “Add-in Provider” member, which is a mid-level status within the organization. The company will contribute code such as bug fixes to Eclipse.

The Eclipse organization gains another high-profile member in Macromedia. Meanwhile BEA Systems Inc. announced its allegiance to Eclipse in February. Other vendors participating include Borland, Eclipse-founder IBM Corp., Oracle Corp., and SAP AG. Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are the holdouts among major software firms.

Macromedia’s Eclipse participation was not driven by the pending acquisition by Adobe Systems Inc., Whatcott said. The US$3.4 billion acquisition is expected to close this fall. With its decision to base Flex on the Eclipse IDE, Macromedia joins other vendors such as BEA and Borland that have begun to standardize on it.

“Eclipse is rapidly becoming the IDE of choice, especially in non-Microsoft environments, since it provides a standard way for developers to interact with a whole set of different development environments,” Schmelzer said. “In general, the proprietary IDE seems to be going by the wayside, especially in the development of heterogeneous applications.”

Borland, for its part, announced Peloton in June, a commercial version of JBuilder created specifically for the open-source Eclipse platform.

“Our strategic roadmap is to standardize on Eclipse,” said Rob Cheng, director of product marketing at Borland. “Eclipse is the underlying plumbing for our products.”

Cheng emphasized that JBuilder will not be open sourced but will “continue to be a commercial product.” Peloton, he added, is slated to be available in the first half of next year.

Offering only scant detail, Borland also said the forthcoming JBuilder 2006, due later this year, will include collaboration features such as shared code editor views and joint debugging. Cheng declined to commit to a shipping date for JBuilder 2006, but only said, “It will be earlier than December.”

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