January 30, 2004

An open letter to Eclipse membership from Sun

Author: Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Sun would like to congratulate the Eclipse organization on the eve of the
transition to independence. This move proves again that the Java
technology ecosystem is capable of spawning new value and continued
technical diversity. Given this noteworthy accomplishment, and the recent creation of
javatools.org, Sun would like to reflect on what we hope the future has in
store for Java technology-based tools and the enduring Java platform.

What we have in common: the Big Picture

First and foremost, the main goal for all of us in the Java development
community is to achieve the strongest possible technology and market
position for the Java platform. The Big Picture is a Java technology
solution that ensures no "lock in" to a given platform, one that generates
competitive markets and technologies, and one based on standards. That way
developers, deployers and consumers continue to have choice and benefit
from technological diversity.

Thanks is due to Eclipse for joining Sun in genuinely exploring options.

Since July 2003, Sun and Eclipse have held many candid conversations and
explored various options to join, merge, and otherwise combine forces. In
the course of these discussions, we were able to set aside differences of
technical opinion to pursue our common goal -- the Big Picture.

All those involved in the meetings would agree that the sticking points in
the discussion were not so much technical in nature as they were
business-related. Sun bases all of its commercial tools products on the
NetBeans open source IDE. The required mandatory transition to the
Eclipse platform would inhibit development of innovative technologies like
the Sun Java Studio Creator product (code-named Project Rave), and require
a reconstruction of all of our existing tools. Any entry criteria requiring
that Sun abandon the NetBeans open source platform directly conflicts with
the concept of choice and diversity, the very bases that gave Eclipse its
beginning. If this condition were to change, we would be happy to
reconsider. In the meantime, it is worthwhile to explore how we (and
others) can work with Eclipse to align in a way that benefits the strength
of the Java platform as a whole, especially with the multi-partner
javatools.org community recently announced.

We hope in the near future to find a solution that benefits both the
Eclipse and NetBeans communities -- in very visible, open ways -- where Sun
can be an open contributor to Eclipse, and Eclipse can do the same for the
NetBeans platform. In that manner, technology and IP can flow more freely
so that both communities benefit. This tight alignment ensures that the
Java platform wins.

Choice does not mean fragmentation!

Competition and technical diversity are not equivalent to fragmentation, as
some would define it. In the process of your achievement, you've shown that
competition and diversity have in fact helped win over more developers and
software vendors to the Java platform, and further demonstrated its staying
power and value. Technical diversity is always beneficial when it's aligned
with accepted standards. And, regarding alternative GUI technologies, Sun
is even working to ensure effective standards-based interoperability there
as well.

Some key issues to watch

Once the Eclipse organization files for incorporation, Java technology
developers and the entire industry will be interested in the following issues:

  • Independence of the Executive Director of Eclipse: The organization's
    bylaws have given the director an unusual amount of power to form projects
    and assign resources. Will the director be an impartial guardian of the
    community (or be partial)?
  • Project staffing: Today, IBM controls 70 to 80 percent of the project
    staffers, who effectively operate independently of what the Board declares.
    Will this continue to be the case?
  • Inclusion of outside IP: If Eclipse is to grow, it must accept outside
    contributions from other platform vendors and should be willing to invest
    in the costs needed to accrete outside ideas. Ideas don't come free. Can
    you toe the very difficult line of being sensitive to the business
    interests of the participating vendors, and not just look at technology for
    technology's sake?

We're willing -- and able -- to help

Sun has much to contribute to the community of tool vendors and to Eclipse
in particular. For example, the NetBeans open source IDE, which has
achieved well over 1.8 million downloads of NetBeans version 3.5 since its
release in June 2003, already delivers superb support for Web
applications, for mobile clients, and for visual development of rich Java
GUIs. And, the forthcoming NetBeans 3.6 release, available in February,
will support Web apps for the newest J2EE specifications, including Servlet
2.4 and JSP 2.0.

Also, Sun has already been working to ensure that Swing GUI components can
run inside of SWT containers such as Eclipse. Sun is, in fact, committed to
actual Java technology interoperability, and committed to improving
developers' lives to make it easier for portable Java technology-based
code that works across the different vendors IDEs.

Advice and suggestions from our experience

After years of driving the Java platform and community innovation and being
the lead advocate for Java technology, Sun is heavily invested in Eclipse's
mission -- and has a few suggestions.

Challenge yourselves to be more than an "exemplary framework" as stated in
the Eclipse mission. Push the organization to be a unifying force for Java

Diversity -- with alignment -- will aid in creating a stronger Java
community and industry. You've proved it. But don't define
"interoperability" on your own terms, but rather work with other major
players in the industry to achieve actual interoperability. Working with
the Java Community Process (JCP) and the Java Tools Community (JTC)
would be great entrees into the discussion.

The question is no longer: "Will the Java tools industry move to one common
source base?" That's always been a non-starter when you think about the
players involved. The question is: "Will the new Eclipse work with tool
vendors and developers to provide the richest set of offerings and maintain
the Java technology and platform leadership in a competitive marketplace?"

We need to work together to make the Java platform a better, broader base
for tools. That is the real issue. We trust Eclipse will help, not hinder,
the effort.

Sun Microsystems, Inc.


  • Java
Click Here!