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Exclusive Q & A with Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director, Eclipse Foundation
Milinkovich Joined Eclipse On June 1, 2004
By: Bill Dudney
Jul. 2, 2004 12:00 AM
On June 1, 2004, the Eclipse Board of Directors named Mike Milinkovich the executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. The hunt had been on since Eclipse became an independent entity earlier this year. Here JDJ's Eclipse editor, Bill Dudney, talks exclusively with Milinkovich about the direction he wants to take Eclipse and what his vision is for the community.
Mike Milinkovich comes to the Eclipse Foundation from Oracle, where he served as the vice president of OracleAS Technical Services. Prior to Oracle he was at WebGain as the vice president of World Wide Services, Training and Support Services. Milinkovich joined WebGain as a result of their acquisition of TopLink from ObjectPeople, where he was vice president of business development. Prior to ObjectPeople he was with Object Technology International (OTI) - the company that IBM acquired and that eventually built Eclipse, so this move is sort of a homecoming for Mike.
Mike Milinkovich Executive Director Eclipse Foundation
The interview generally covers four areas. First is SWT and its impact on the Java market. Second is Eclipse as an open source community. Next, the WebTools project, and finally I asked Mike about JSR 198, the JSR to define a common plugin API so plugins can work across IDEs.
JDJ: Does SWT bifurcate the Java market?
Part of the rationale behind supporting SWT and now the Rich Client Platform (RCP) was not to bifurcate the Java market, because our focus was on building tools that were of interest to people who perhaps were not interested in Java at all. We're interested in tools for other languages like what we're doing with the CDT for C and C++, and for other platforms and for other things like modeling and tools for the embedded marketplace. These areas are quite different from what you typically think of when you think of Java tools. So from that perspective, I think SWT is here to stay.
However, I don't want this characterized as a Sun Java versus Eclipse scenario because I frankly just don't see it that way. We are an open source project; we are trying to build a tools integration platform that can be used universally for many languages and many platforms. We are happy with what we are getting from SWT.
JDJ: SWT runs fast on Windows, but on other platforms (Mac OS X, Linux, etc.) the performance is not as good. What plans do you have to get the performance on other platforms more in line with the Windows platform?
JDJ: That leads me back to the bifurcation of the marketplace: Apple and, I believe, Red Hat as well have invested heavily in making Swing run well on their platforms - now you are asking them to reinvest in SWT.
JDJ: Doesn't the presence of the RCP bifurcate the market because of the requirement to build the user interface with SWT? For example, tools such as the Visual Editor (an Eclipse subproject) are having significant work poured into them to make the SWT aware. Doesn't the RCP/SWT combination bifurcate the market, even if that bifurcation is unintended?
JDJ: What about the rest of the platforms that do not support this SWT/AWT bridge?
JDJ: Any other comment on SWT?
JDJ: Moving on then, can you shed some light on what the status of the WebTools project is? At EclipseCon there was a lot of excitement about this project, but since then it seems to have died down.
JDJ: Any kick-off date in mind? When might we see some of the output?
[Author's Note: The proposal was posted on April 27 and the 30-day period was extended by one week to finish assimilating feedback from the community. Look for the project to become official very soon. The WebTools Project (WTP) awaits a board vote.]
JDJ: We are 2.5 years into Eclipse. How do you feel the model is working for IBM and the other commercial entities that are involved?
JDJ: Do you see this as a trend in the industry? For example, BEA recently announced Beehive.
JDJ: Do you see Eclipse's dominance of the market as good or bad for innovation?
Just as interesting is building a vibrant commercial ecosystem of people building products on top of Eclipse or building plugins that work with Eclipse. People are making businesses building software in that way.
I think Eclipse is a platform for innovation and in no way stifles innovation. And I think that is part of the original vision for Eclipse. From the beginning, Eclipse was about making a common open source platform that solves problems people have been solving repeatedly in proprietary commercial implementations. By creating an open source and open implementation of the previously commercial, proprietary implementations, it allows people to go and innovate and solve interesting problems instead of building yet another text editor or yet another code browser.
JDJ: In which ways do you see the Eclipse market broadening? What's the most important area for it to broaden into?
Where would I like to see Eclipse grow? First of all, we will continue to be very active as a Java IDE and you will see that in Eclipse 3.0. This next version will solve the problems that Java developers want solved. We will continue to grow in that area.
When I look forward into other areas where I want to see the technology grow, embedded systems is certainly one area I'm interested in seeing Eclipse grow. If you look at the board of stewards, three members - QNX Software Systems, MontaVista Software, and Ericsson - are on our board because they are interested in seeing Eclipse grow in the embedded space. The fact that Wind River joined as a member is another example of the embedded space companies joining to see Eclipse grow in that market. So I believe that growing Eclipse as a standard tool set for developers in the embedded market place is an area that we are very interested in.
Other technology areas will include the area of modeling and model-driven architecture. These are areas where Eclipse has got some traction today and I'd like to see it grow quickly in the future.
This list is not in any particular priority. As I mentioned before, the WebTools project is an area where I really see that Eclipse can and should grow to make sure it has a complete tool set for the J2EE developers who are out there. By the way, I'd add that in and of itself this is a pretty impressive list of things that we are already into that we will now be trying to grow.
JDJ: At EclipseCon there was concern that in adding the WebTools project you'd be cutting into some of the margins and feature sets of some of the commercial members of the Eclipse community. Do you have any comment on that?
What there is a strong desire for, and I believe this a very fair request and one that I certainly intend to honor, is that there be visibility and communication about the direction Eclipse is going in. If you read the by-laws and development process there is a huge emphasis on having a very transparent strategy-setting and planning process. There is visibility from the add-in provider community on where Eclipse is going so they can make forewarned and rational business decisions about what they want to do and what they want to focus on.
JDJ: Do you have any particular areas you want to see Eclipse grow in that we have not already discussed?
JDJ: How do you see the relationship between Eclipse and Sun in the future? Do you have a particular direction you'd like to see this go? Are there currently any ongoing talks?
That said, from my perspective the door is always going be open. If there is something Sun wants to talk to us about, I will always respond to their phone calls and have good-faith conversations about what we could be doing together. I personally think the entire conversation about Sun versus Eclipse is kind of missing the point. Sun is doing what they are doing in support of their shareholders and in their role as the steward of the Java community. Eclipse is doing what it is doing in its role as the steward of the Eclipse Open Source community. And to the degree possible, where we have congruent goals, we should be working together and I'd be thrilled to do so.
JDJ: Do you see a place for you to go after Sun to get some cooperation between the Eclipse Foundation and Sun?
JDJ: IBM is on the JSR 198 expert group but there is currently no one from Eclipse. Are there plans for a member of the Eclipse community to join the JSR 198 expert group?
JDJ: Thank you Mike for talking with the world's leading i-technology magazine. We'll be closely watching the continuing story of Eclipse as a universal platform for tool integration.
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