Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eclipse mobility

Ian Skerrett, marketing director for the Eclipse Foundation, stopped by SJSU for coffee this morning to catch up. Ian is in Silicon Valley for tomorrow’s “Eclipse Day at the Googleplex.” (registration closed July 26)

I’ve known Ian since 2004, but haven’t seen him face to face since our honors students studied key success factors for projects in the Eclipse community.

While Ian has stayed in the same job the entire time, Eclipse remains on the move. We talked about how mobile (along with cloud) is the current big thing in software development, and so far Eclipse is doing pretty well.

Eclipse has three of the big four smartphone platforms (five if you count Microsoft): Symbian, BlackBerry and Android. Apple (like Microsoft) has its own tools that for strategic reasons parallel its PC-centric tools.

It also also is used by all five of the traditional Big Five handset developers — Nokia with Symbian and Samsung, LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson with Android. Motorola distributes its own MotoDev Studio, which includes both a custom package of Android tools and an Eclipse-based IDE for writing Java apps. Even Samsung's proprietary bada smartphone platform uses Eclipse tools.

In response to the increasing focus on mobile, Eclipse has created yet another TLA for yet another project: TMW (Tools for Mobile Web).

All is not sweetness and light. Since Nokia has decided to create its own tools to emphasize QT APIs on top of all its mobile platforms, this means that Nokia is moving away from a shared Eclipse platform towards its own proprietary one (like Apple and Microsoft).

Also, Eclipse is not a silver bullet (or life preserver) for companies with a failed business model or struggling to survive in a commoditized market segment. (Exhibit A: Borland). So there will be a certain amount of turnover inherent in both the composition of the Eclipse community and the sponsor-members who pay the bills to keep the Foundation running.

Still, Eclipse remains the exemplar for a fully open open source community — still comparatively rate, as companies find letting go is hard to do.

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