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Eclipse's New Focus Targets End-Users

Eclipse's New Focus Targets End-Users

Eclipse has grown in unforeseen ways since its introduction by IBM three years ago. What was intended to be a platform where developers could create tools, has grown and now encompasses end-users. A new cross-platform offering has been created as a result. IBM Workplace Client Technology, Rich Client Edition, as the platform is known, leverages Eclipse's client-side features. The addition of IBM's Java relational database, Cloudscape, along with client support with Lotus Groupware, takes application development mainstream.

Major changes have taken place at the Eclipse Foundation, effecting the organization itself, and the platform. Eclipse Foundation, for one, is now an independent, not-for-profit foundation, which is no longer under IBM's exclusive management. The release of Eclipse 3.0 is the first new Eclipse release under this member-run structure.

Lee Nackman, CTO, Rational & vice president, design, construction, and test tools development, IBM, explained some of the major changes with the recently released Eclipse 3.0. "There has been a major revamping of the Eclipse user interface," he said, "in the area of its look and feel. It now supports a larger number of plug-ins, and provides new ways of organizing the plug-in functionality so larger numbers of plug-ins won't be confusing for users. That's been a significant step forward."

Advancements in end-user application development are clearly evident in v3.0. Nackman elaborated on some of these innovations, which includes new background threading capabilities, along with a new platform designed with end-user application development specifically in mind.

Nackman noted, "There's been a new "background thread" capability added which makes Eclipse much more responsive when there are long-running tasks that need to be executed from the IDE."

He further states, "There has been a lot of hardening of the API's for the plug-in mechanism, and a move to base plug-ins on OSGI standards. And there's been the introduction of the Eclipse Rich Client Platform - an Eclipse-based platform for people to build real client applications - not just application development tools, but all kinds of client applications."

The extensible nature of the Eclipse platform is very appealing to many developers because it allows cross-platform application development. The addition of IBM's Java-based relational database, referred to as Cloudscape or "Derby," brings into the Eclipse development fold a large number of Java application developers who may be working on any number of platforms.

Jim Russell, director, application development tools, Lotus Software, IBM, said the addition of Cloudscape to Eclipse's desktop development stack further intensifies the focus on end-user application development.

He said, "Eclipse 3.0 can now be used to develop applications for end users, not just tool users. The IBM Workplace Client Technologies version of Eclipse is the basis for end-user applications that are deployed to many end-users desktops, not just developer desktops."

Using a Java-based relational database has very practical implications as well, which are very appealing to developers creating end-user applications. It is not only infinitely more integratable, it also encrypts data preventing unauthorized access, and requires little administration.

Russell, calling Cloudscape the "core" component of IBM Workplace Client Technology, said, "IBM Workplace Client Technology is an extension of our server-side managed platform. And the Cloudscape-based database is an extension of both the data that is going to be stored for the applications to use, and data that will be stored and replicated back to the server. It provides us with a no-administration, secure, replicated store that we can use to deploy application data flexibly, to many different kinds of clients and devices."

The majority of IBM's tool products, for use in WebSphere and other technologies, are now modeled on Eclipse. This puts the IDE into the hands of many developers. Russell was keen to point out that Eclipse 3.0 is not to be thought of as a tool development platform, though it can certainly be used for this purpose. An ever-increasing number of IBM client desktops are now based on Eclipse, including new products from Rational. Referring to Eclipse 3.0's modeling framework as a "meta-model," he said driving furthering adoption of the framework was important for the community.

The Eclipse Foundation includes a number of companies that span the technology sector. Sun has had a bumpy relationship with Eclipse, because of their NetBeans IDE, that is well known throughout the industry. Russell showed the inclusive nature of Eclipse, stating that the decision to join the group was up to Sun.

More Stories By Eclipse News Desk

Eclipse News Desk gathers and summarizes news and information from newspapers, magazines, Web sites, newsletters, and online communitities likely to be of interest to those who support the move toward a language-neutral, vendor-neutral, open-source platform for the development of integrated tools.

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