In the late 1990s, IBM began development of what we now know as Eclipse. In the mid-1990s, a number of powerful commercial development environments were available; Microsoft Visual Studio was becoming a more general-purpose tools platform. A number of Java-based IDEs were also coming into play, including Symantec’s Visual Café, Borland’s JBuilder, IBM’s Visual Age for Java, and others.
The platform began development by Object Technology International in 1998 (a subsidiary of IBM purchased in 1996, now known as the IBM Ottawa Lab) to address the problems raised by customers that dealt with the cohesiveness of IBM software tooling. Customers complained that IBM’s tooling looked like it came from different companies and didn’t work together.
IBM wanted to establish a common platform for all their development products to avoid duplicating the most common elements of infrastructure. This would allow customers using multiple tools built by different parts of IBM to have a more integrated experience as they switched from one tool to another
Beginning of the phenomenon
In November 1998, the OTI team was given the go ahead because they had experience building several generations of IDEs. Also, another IBM team was going to build the first product on this new platform.
The two teams were separate organizationally within IBM. An interesting feature was that they wanted to build a great Java IDE to attract people to the platform. Good strategy. Come for the Java IDE, stay for the platform. (However whenever Eclipse is mentioned , many people think of it as a Java IDE, this a misconception and Eclipse is much more than a Java IDE)
One goal of IBM was that they wanted to be competitive with Visual Studio, especially on Windows. This led to the design of SWT (Standard Widget Toolkit). This component gives Eclipse the native look and feel. I guess this also drove the platform decision to loosely couple the JDT (Java Development Tool) from the Platform, which is one thing why it makes it different from NetBeans.
In fact the name “Eclipse” actually means “to eclipse Visual Studio.”
However the growth of the platform had one problem: The business partners were initially reluctant to invest in the (as yet unproven) platform. So in November 2001, IBM decided to adopt the open source licensing and operating model for this technology to increase exposure and accelerate adoption. IBM, along with eight other organizations, established the Eclipse consortium and eclipse.org. Initial members included (then-partners) Rational Software and TogetherSoft, as well as competitors WebGain and Borland. Membership in the consortium required only a bona fide (but non-enforced) commitment to Eclipse to use it internally, to promote it, and to ship a product based on it.
As Eclipse grew and became more well-known, there were growing pains: It seemed that IBM was controlling it, so vendors were wary of joining. The ones that did join were not that serious yet !. So, the Eclipse Foundation was created in February 2004, right before EclipseCon 2004.
After formation of Eclipse foundation..
The move to form a Eclipse foundation was a great success. The new and independent Eclipse Foundation shipped Eclipse 3.0, and soon afterwards, Eclipse 3.1; both were received with even higher degrees of interest and adoption rates than the prior version. There was a big growth in membership, with BEA one of the newest and biggest. IBM itself has adopted Eclipse aggressively and has contributed considerable amount of code in the form of WTP (Web Tools Platform) and TPTP.
Today Eclipse foundation has about 14 strategic members, each of them commits at least eight full-time developers and up to $250,000 annually to the Eclipse foundation.The Eclipse Foundation also has four strategic consumers who also make a similar economic commitment. There are ninety six companies serving as add-in providers, and another seventeen associate member companies. If you peruse the software industry, you’ll find hundreds of commercial plug-ins and products for Eclipse.