Sun drops out of Eclipse negotiations

Discussions aimed at merging Sun Microsystems Inc.’s NetBeans Java development framework with the IBM Corp.-backed Eclipse group have broken down, Sun said on Wednesday. The news ends months of speculation about whether Sun, the company that created Java, would join forces with IBM, one of Java’s biggest supporters, and unify the two companies’ efforts to create a standard open-source development environment for Java.

The companies had been in negotiations since around the middle of the year, when Sun indicated that it might be amenable to a merger of the projects. Since then, Sun executives had been communicating regularly with IBM and with the Eclipse Board, Sun said.

Sun had hoped to reach an agreement on how to merge the two groups in time for the December meeting of the Eclipse Board, which is being held on Wednesday in Dallas. It withdrew from the negotiations because it was not offered “an equitable share in mutual development,” according to a Sun statement distributed to the press.

IBM declined to comment on the matter, and Eclipse representatives could not immediately be reached.

The companies had been trying to find ways to merge the software frameworks, the governance and the development communities of the two projects, as well as ways to make the plug-in software that third-party developers have written for NetBeans and Eclipse compatible, said Rich Green, Sun’s vice-president of developer platforms.

“The talks revolved around those four things, and we didn’t reach agreement in time for the board meeting,” said Green. Sun has now walked away from the negotiations and no further talks with the Eclipse team are currently scheduled, he said.

IBM kick-started the Eclipse project with a US$40 million investment in 2001 and has done the lion’s share of development work. The project was immediately perceived as a direct threat to Sun’s NetBeans, which had been launched a year earlier.

The news that Sun has withdrawn from negotiations to merge the projects means Eclipse and NetBeans will remain competitive for the foreseeable future, although Green said he is still open to further discussion. “If there is a way to merge them where the winner is the developer, we’ll do it,” he said.

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