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Eclipse Expands, Urges Shift Away From Windows User Interface

The Eclipse Foundation is expanding its core developer's workbench into a broader platform that competes more directly with Microsoft Windows, at least within the enterprise.

The workbench, which started out integrating dissimilar Java tools inside IBM in the mid-1990s, was brought into the public arena as open source code in 1998 and became a runaway success as a unifying platform for third-party tools. The fact that different design, coding, and debugging tools could work together under Eclipse made Java tools more competitive with the tightly integrated Visual Studio tool set from Microsoft.

Now Eclipse is looking to extend its success into new areas, including the user interface previously conceded to Microsoft Windows. It is moving rapidly, for example, to adopt Ajax-type technologies, now widely used in Web applications that interact with users in the way Google Maps does. And it is offering a standard client interface, the Eclipse Rich Client Platform, that can serve as a front end to enterprise applications running on Linux-based desktop computers or Apple Macintoshes, as well as PCs running Windows. While Macintosh and Linux users represent a small fraction of the total users in large corporations, the Eclipse foundation and its members think that picture could eventually change.

"The Rich Client Platform is pretty mature," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, which oversees the open source projects that add to Eclipse's capabilities.

"Over the next three years, Microsoft will be very busy encouraging shops to move off of Win32 APIs and move to [Windows] Vista. If a company is considering moving off Win32, they should look at Rich Client Platform" as a more robust, long-term answer for their application user interface needs, Milinkovich said Tuesday at an Eclipse Foundation press conference at the EclipseCon 2006 conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

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