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Eclipse and NetBeans are sparring partners

2005, eclipse

A recent post asked whether JavaOne was NetBean’s last stand. It’s certainly an interesting viewpoint, and the level of support for NetBeans and Eclipse that it paints seems to be compatible with my view of the two respective products.

But I don’t think that NetBeans is ready to roll over and die just yet. The day that happens will be the day that Sun rolls over and dies; and although that’s been predicted almost as much as Apple’s death, they are probably going to be surviving a few years yet.

But seriously; Sun’s life-blood is tied in with the NetBeans product. They already have lost much of the control of Java (there’s not really that much new in the newer versions of Java over the last five years; 1.2-1.4 were mostly bugfixes, and 1.5 just adds a few tweaks to the compiler rather than any ground-breaking support). The only place that Java is doing well is on the mobile side (on phones, and they probably get as much licensing from that as they are going to) and on the server side (since .Net is mostly viewed as a front-end technology). The main crutch is IBM’s re-subscription to Java for 10 years – but you can almost hear the marketing drones wondering if it will be around for all those 10, or if a new language like groovy (or an existing one like python or ruby) are going to take over.

It’s almost getting desperate for Sun; the only hope they’ve got on the desktop is via their NetBeans IDE, and even that doesn’t compete well with Eclipse’s IDE features – but the key difference as I wrote previously, is that Eclipse isn’t just an IDE. It’s also a framework for building rich client applications. I’m sure that Sun will get it eventually, but they’re peddling NetBeans along with the JDK as a bribe for downloading Java. Hell, they’re probably just knocking up counters from people who don’t know the difference between that and the Java Runtime Environment which they need to play the latest Java games :-)

But both NetBeans and Eclipse provide competition for each other, and hopefully can cross-pollenate ideas from each other. I think the battle for the IDE has already been won, but if NetBeans gives up without a struggle then it will be Java Developers that lose out; Sun will fade into the background and IBM will buy out the pieces. You never know, they may then donate Java to the Eclipse Foundation to steward its future …