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Eclipse casts a giant shadow in Silicon Valley

The annual EclipseCon will feature the introduction of new members, like Salesforce.com, and a brand new PHP project.

EclipseCon 2006, which opens today at the Santa Clara Convention Center, has come a long way in two years, both as an open source development platform and as a conference. Now Eclipse attracts a mix as widespread as applications vendors like Salesforce.com and PHP developers.

We're seeing migration from Java IDEs to the Eclipse IDE.
Tim Lang
Vice President of Developer MarketingBusiness Objects SA

Two years ago, the first EclipseCon was held at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., which seemed an odd venue as hardcore Java coders were invited to have breakfast with Goofy and technical sessions had Disney's greatest hits for background music. Last year, EclipseCon 2005 moved up to a hotel in the more sophisticated San Francisco Bay area and attendees were promised that they would not have to listen to "It's a Small World."

The Silicon Valley location for this week's event perhaps reflects the maturity of Eclipse. Having expanded from a hotel-based show to a convention center with three nearby hotels sold out, this year's version features 140 technical presentations in three days.

The sold out show will feature 45 software vendors hocking their wares, many of whom have become Eclipse members since the organization declared it's independence from its IBM parent in 2004.

Tim Lang, vice president of developer marketing for Business Objects SA, says the maturity of both Java and Eclipse attracted his company to join and move its Crystal Reports business intelligence software beyond the Microsoft Visual Basic and .Net world where the company had concentrated from the early 1990s to the beginning of the new millennium. Since it began to focus on the Java world in 2002, Lang has witnessed growing momentum for Eclipse.

"We're seeing migration from Java IDEs to the Eclipse IDE," he says.

As a result Business Objects has become a plug-in partner in Eclipse and now provides Crystal Reports plug-ins for Eclipse-based applications.

Some Eclipse members are so new they've yet to learn the secret handshake.

Today, Salesforce.com, the Web-based CRM pioneer, is announcing that it is joining the Eclipse Foundation. Salesforce has also released a new AppExchange Toolki, which includes Ajax capabilities. Built on the Eclipse Web Tools Project (WTP), it is designed for developers working on integrating with Salesforce.com, as well as building and testing new applications, says Nils Gilman, director of developer marketing for Salesforce. He says his company is joining Eclipse to have a voice in the growth and maturation of the platform.

While Eclipse is heavily identified with the Java development community, Zend Technologies Inc. chief marketing officer Mark de Visser plans to spend his time at this week's conference waving the flag for the PHP scripting language and arguing that Eclipse isn't just for Java anymore.

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Zend is jointly announcing with IBM today that the Eclipse PHP IDE project has been approved by the foundation. The project will initially create a set of plug-ins adding PHP capabilities to Eclipse, Visser says. Eventually, it will build out a complete set of PHP tools for working inside the Eclipse framework.

Zend, founded by the developers of the latest version of PHP, is the PHP equivalent of Red Hat Linux, Visser says.

While he admits that there won't be many PHP coders at the Java dominated conference, he's ready to make the case that while there are four million Java programmers globally, there are also 2.5 million PHP developers. He acknowledges Java and C++ handle the heavy lifting for enterprise applications, but argues that the simpler scripting language is well suited for Web services development. He'll further claim that 40 percent of Web services applications, including those on Yahoo!, are being created with the PHP scripting language.

EclipseCon may be perceived as a Java show, but Visser says, "I'm here to change that."

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