Crystal Reports for Eclipse touted as a Java-based reporting solution

Actuate saw a bona fide opportunity last year when it came on board the open-source Eclipse Foundation as a strategic developer. J2EE programmers had long bemoaned the absence of a native Java reporting solution for Eclipse, the world's most popular Java integrated development environment, and Actuate promised to give them just that, with the Business Intelligence Reporting Tool. It now turns out that Actuate's opportunity isn't unique.

At its Insight 2005 conference in Orlando, Business Objects announced a preview release of its market-leading Crystal Reports tool—for Eclipse.

Like BIRT, the new Crystal Reports plug-in for Eclipse is billed as a completely Java-based reporting solution. And, like BIRT, Crystal Reports for Eclipse promises native integration with the IDE of the same name.

Unlike BIRT, however, Crystal Reports for Eclipse isn't the collaborative fruit of a close-knit community of developers. And in a Java space that's highly sympathetic to open-source and collaborative development projects, that counts for a lot.

"What I like about BIRT is that it is—or can be—an open standard," said Chris Downey, a report developer who works in the government sector, earlier this year. "BIRT is built from other emerging open standards such as FOP. I believe this is a much more powerful way for me and other developers to leverage our time and knowledge."

In this respect, Business Objects' Crystal freeware for Eclipse is a clever gambit. After all, most BIRT adopters probably have existing investments in Crystal Reports. Many BI professionals have Crystal design skills, and a lot of developers do, too. And in many cases, it's extremely difficult to convert Crystal reports over to another format. Crystal for Eclipse might therefore be appealing.

But it isn't free for commercial use. And for some J2EE developers—particularly those who use Eclipse--that could make all the difference.

"We have a strong open-source orientation, because [the] economic issues of our country make our enterprise less competitive if we choose commercial solutions," Lopez says.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor. He can be reached at [email protected].