Google Donates Two Eclipse Projects Worth $5 Million

Google today announced plans to contribute the source code and IP for two new open-source Eclipse projects. The Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant said it will donate CodePro Profiler, an Eclipse-based Java application profiling tool, and the framework and SWT tooling of WindowBuilder, a leading Eclipse-based Java GUI Designer. Both were acquired last August when the company bought Portland, Ore.-based Instantiations. 

The nearly one million lines of code, plus the IP, is worth more than $5 million dollars, the company said.

Eric Clayberg, co-founder of Instantiations, now a software engineering manager for Google developer tools, will be the project lead on the WindowBuilder project, and Google will provide 15 in-house committers, he said. He also said he expects half a dozen committers from other companies who've expressed interest in the project. Former Instantiations partner OnPositive, a custom software development company based in Russia with offices in the U.S. and U.K., will take the lead and provide the corporate committers to the CodePro Profiler project, he said. 

 "We've had lots of people express interest in extending the WindowBuilder framework in particular," Clayberg told this site. "And Google has a lot of its development tools in open source -- the Android tool stack, for example -- so it made sense to continue these two projects out in the open."

Google made the announcement today in a posting on Clayberg's blog.

Six weeks after its acquisition of Instantiations, Google re-branded and re-launched WindowBuilder as a free tool for the Java/Eclipse community. The company had been considering the fate of CodePro Profiler, Clayberg said, when it made the decision to donate both tools to Eclipse.

 The WindowBuilder contribution includes the SWT Designer and Swing Designer components of that tool bundle, but will not include the popular GWT Designer, the popular Ajax/Java GUI builder that leverages the Google Web Toolkit (GWT). The GWT is Google’s free, open-source development framework aimed at Web application builders who want to use the Asynchronous JavaScript and XML technique (Ajax) without having to learn JavaScript.

"It's so tightly coupled with the GWT that we're keeping it in-house for the moment," Clayberg said. "But all of the key functionality -- WYSIWYG editing, support for widgets, layouts, visual inheritance, bi-directional code generation, parsing -- all of that is part of this engine we're contributing."

"We want to make sure that all developers in our community are productive," added Brad Abrams, product manager for Google developer tools. "And as we go after the enterprise developers, Eclipse is a fantastic medium for that."

The Eclipse Foundation’s Executive Director Mike Milinkovich says the two new projects will fill a gap in the toolkits of Eclipse Java developers. "In terms of what they get with their free Eclipse tools, great GUI building and great Java profiling have been pretty high on the list for a long time," he said. "These projects fill that need for the community."

Even though the WindowBuilder components have been available for free, being able to access those components, along with the CodePro tools, from the Eclipse download site as freely reusable, extensible, and re-distributable components is going to be a "big boost" for Java developers, Milinkovich said.

Every Eclipse project goes through a three-phase lifecycle, Milinkovich explained: proposal, incubation, maturity. After the proposal is accepted, each project must pass three reviews: the creation review, the graduation review, and the final release review.

"It's easy to propose a project at Eclipse," he said. "It's tough to graduate and become a mature Eclipse project. And we make it pretty hard to release a project from Eclipse. We do lose projects along the way, but that's by design."

The Google team plans to submit its project proposals to the Foundation today, Clayberg said. Once submitted, it will be available on the Eclipse Web site. After the community gets a chance to comment on the proposals, Google will start moving the code through the Eclipse IP vetting and licensing process.

Clayberg and Abrams said that they expect to have the WindowBuilder project reader for the Eclipse Foundation's annual Release Train in June 2011 with Eclipse 3.7. They're submitting the two projects just before the Friday deadline for projects to declare their intent to join the release train. "They can definitely make it," Milinkovich said. "And we'll do everything we can to support that goal."

Genuitec, the Flower Mound, Texas-based provider of Java and Java EE development tools based on the Eclipse framework, including the MyEclipse Java IDE, is among the early commercial supporters of the WindowBuilder project. The company plans to offer support for the SWT and Swing Designer tools, as well as the GWT Designer tools.

"The Eclipse Foundation is certainly the right place for these projects," said Todd Williams, Genuitec's vice president. "But Google wants to ensure that there is continuity from the commercial side for the folks her purchased these tools from Instantiations. A lot of corporations simply don't like to download open source free stuff with no support. We're more than happy to step in for those corporate customers who want professional services and support. It's really a no-brainer for us to add those products to our MyEclipse line, pretty much immediately."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].