Borland upgrades IDE as open source alternatives loom

Borland Software on Tuesday announced an upgrade to its JBuilder IDE. But the future of the commercial IDE market is clouded, with Eclipse providing base technologies for free.

Shipping in mid-September, Borland JBuilder 2006 boasts peer-to-peer developer collaboration, new Java standards support and productivity enhancements. But the company, like rival BEA Systems, intends to base future versions of its IDE on the Eclipse platform, which features an IDE itself.

Officials at Borland are confident of JBuilder's ability to maintain market presence by offering features that Eclipse doesn't yet have, such as visual designers and advanced re-factoring. The officials acknowledge that Eclipse will continue to add new capabilities. However, "Borland is always focused higher and higher" when it comes to feature differentiation, said Rob Cheng, Borland's director of product marketing for developer solutions.

"I think the confusion is that a lot of people equate Eclipse with an IDE, but what they don't realize is that first and foremost Eclipse is an application integration framework," Cheng said.

The future Eclipse-based version of JBuilder, called Peloton, is due in the first half of 2006. It will include JBuilder's usability and collaboration features as well as application lifecycle management integrations.

Analysts take note of the impact Eclipse has had on commercial IDEs.

"We're seeing a growing appetite in the developer community for Eclipse," said analyst John Andrews, chief operating officer at Evans Data. Based on recent research, Evans estimates that Eclipse has a market share of 20 to 30 percent in the IDE space. Growth is coming at the expense of commercial IDEs.

"[Eclipse's] market share is growing and most of the other commercial, closed IDEs stayed fairly flat," Edwards said.

"You can already see the effect that Eclipse has had on the revenues of vendors like Borland, and on Oracle's decision to offer JDeveloper for free, charging only for support," said Carl Zetie, analyst for Forrester Research, in an e-mail response to questions. "We see Eclipse being used in close to 50 percent of enterprise development shops already -- and in some cases, even when the official tool is a commercial IDE, it's really Eclipse that's being used."

But all is not lost for commercial IDE providers, according to Zetie.

"As for commercial vendors, you have to remember that Eclipse provides a barebones IDE," Zetie said. "It really doesn't compete in features and functions with an enterprise IDE, nor does it try to. So what commercial vendors need to do is to focus on adding value in the form of more sophisticated capabilities on top of the commoditized base features that Eclipse provides for free."

"I do see Eclipse eating away at the non-Microsoft IDE environment, but I think that it doesn't threaten Microsoft's IDE at all," added Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink, also in an e-mail.

"Going forward, I think there's little incentive for companies to create new IDEs, and even for many companies with proprietary IDEs to continue developing them in the face of what's becoming increasingly and more widely accepted as a 'universal' IDE for non-Microsoft environments," Schmelzer said.

Eclipse Executive Director Mike Milinkovich dismisses the notion that Eclipse may eclipse commercial IDEs.

"Can open source IDEs coexist with commercial IDEs? The answer is most emphatically 'Yes.' We feel that Eclipse is providing the building blocks for creating IDEs," Milinkovich said.

"We don't see these as being competitive at all," with commercial vendors now building their own IDEs on top of Eclipse, he said. Eclipse has had more than 50 million downloads of its software since its inception in November 2001, with most of these downloads being for the Java IDE.

Borland's Core::Developer product, which serves as the developer component within the Borland Core Software Delivery Platform (SDP), also will be based on Eclipse. SDP provides for application lifecycle management.

Borland officials are touting the new features in JBuilder 2006, particularly peer-to-peer collaboration. "What this virtually enables is the notion of peer-to-peer programming," letting developers collaborate around the world, Cheng said. Developers can share source code securely in JBuilder 2006.

J2EE 1.4 Web services support is featured in JBuilder 2006, as is support for a variety of application servers including JBoss 4.0.x and 3.2, and Tomcat 5.5.9 and 4.2.

Productivity enhancements include new refactorings, more search options and improved error navigation, according to Borland. Refactoring options now include functions such as Extract Inner, which extracts an inner class to the same file or to a new file in the package.

Active Difference Editing in JBuilder 2006 reveals source changes in-line within the editor and boosts collaborative programming, the company said.

Borland Optimizeit, which provides for application performance management and code quality, has been integrated into JBuilder 2006. Optimizeit 2006 is being introduced as well, with profiling and new batch-mode testing features.

JBuilder 2006 will be available in three editions. The Enterprise Edition, which features the peer-to-peer functions, visual designers, code quality tools and other enterprise-level capabilities, costs US$3,500 per developer. The Developer Edition, which offers lower-level visual editors, costs $500 per seat. The free Foundation edition provides code and IDE productivity features but lacks the more enterprise-related functions.

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