Eclipse Popularity Rises: Heterogeneity on the Desktop is Back

The Eclipse Foundation kicks off its EclipseWorld Enterprise Developer Conference in Boston this week with some hot survey numbers: Sixty percent of 384 respondents queried for Evans Data's 2006 Annual Eclipse Global Enterprise Survey say they're using the open source, Java-based platform as their primary IDE. That's nearly double the 32 percent who favored Eclipse in 2005. Sixty-five percent of respondents reported using Eclipse to develop server-centric applications, up from 55 percent last year.

The larger the company, the more likely Eclipse is used as the primary IDE, according to survey results. Seventy-seven percent of respondents work for organizations with more than 1,000 employees, and 37 percent work for large enterprises of 25,000 or more.

But what excites Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich about the survey is what it revealed about the Eclipse Rich Client Platform: approximately 22 percent of the survey respondents reported that they are now building rich client applications based on Eclipse RCP (up more than 130 percent over last year), and a whopping 68 percent said that they will be using it in the next six months.

"We believed that this was happening," says Milinkovich. "And we have a lot of anecdotal evidence. But it's nice to get the hard numbers."

The Eclipse RCP is a subset of the Eclipse open tools platform. It comprises the minimal set of plug-ins needed to build a rich-client application on multiple platforms with a native look-and-feel. Rich client apps live on the desktop, take advantage of local computing resources, and work in both disconnected and connected environments.

It comes with the Eclipse Runtime (built on top of the OSGi framework), the Standard Widget Toolkit, the JFace UI framework, and the Generic Workbench. It gives developers the ability to deploy native GUI applications to a variety of desktop operating systems (Windows, Linux Mac OS X), and it includes an integrated update mechanism for deploying desktop applications from a central server. 

"We have been very impressed with the awareness and growth of Eclipse as a platform for building end-user applications," Evans President John Andrews said in a statement. "It is clear that Eclipse RCP is being considered as one of the main platforms for building desktop applications. Its unique value of providing portability between Windows, Linux and Mac OS X differentiates it from other solutions."

Or as Milinkovich puts it, heterogeneity on the desktop is back.

"Vista is coming, and more and more ISVs and application developers are asking themselves what they're going to do with their applications and products to make sure they're ready—Vista-ready, to be sure, but also just desktop ready. Windows continues to dominate, of course, but the resurgence of the Mac and the never-ending interest in Linux desktops means that heterogeneity matters to a lot of developers."

The Eclipse Foundation is billing the EclipseWorld event, which runs September 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, as "the industry's first independent conference for enterprise software developers, architects and development managers using Eclipse tools and technologies."

Conference attendees can expect to hear a number of announcements at the show, including news about the pending release of the Eclipse PHP IDE project; an update on the Rich AJAX Platform project; and a report on the status of the Mobile Tools for Java project, among others.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].