Like a host of other folks (according to Technorati), I read with interest this entry on the improvements NetBeans has made technically, often at Eclipse’s expense. I found it of particular interest because while the race (some might contend it’s not a race at all, and that the world’s big enough for both – longer term, I don’t agree) is far from over, Eclipse has in our experience been the big winner mindshare-wise.
The question the piece raises in my mind is this: what’s the most important factor in the evolution of these communities? Based on the reactions of very skeptical (and therefore credible) sources like Tim Bray or Dave Johnson, I’m willing to give NetBeans the benefit of the doubt technically. My past experiences with the project aside (it was dog slow last I installed and played around with it), I’m relatively convinced that NetBeans’ new toolset is competitive with Eclipse, at a minimum, on a feature/function basis. That’s the good news.
The bad news, from where I sit, is the ISV story. You might notice that ISV’s are not mentioned in the story linked to above. By roping in BEA, Borland and Sybase, Eclipse now has nearly every major application development vendor on board, excepting Microsoft and Sun. Worse, NetBeans is rarely mentioned by even the smaller ISVs we speak with as a potential target for a plugin; it’s usually stand alone or Eclipse integration.
If you believe – and I do – that the value of the toolset is not in the feature/functions once you reach a certain level of parity but in the community and ecosystem they foster, it puts Eclipse solidly in the leadership position. I’ll be interested in speaking with the NetBeans folks more closely to see what they have in mind for gaining ground in the ISV department; I just need to have better luck getting to see them than I did last time