My thoughts on eclipse e5

My thoughts on eclipse e5

Let’s assume for the moment, that in an alternate reality I can travel back in time to 2008. Once there, I meet a bright bunch of people that work on something called e5 (executive summary.odp). My summary:

“the runtime platform that is simple and appealing to _____ application developers”

Here’s what I would say to them:

e5 should take risks

When I became interested in Eclipse it was cool and disruptive. A real game changer. It is now the established tooling platform and understandably locked into perpetual refinement mode (Entrenched Player’s Dilemma). Make sure that e5 is equally game changing. Otherwise we are setting ourselves up to be disrupted.

At the EclipseCon 2008 we committed a “strategic sin”. We agreed that e4 would be compatible with 3.x. This limited the potential for e4 by forcing it to be something that is “in the box” vs. “outside the box”.

(taken from Death by risk-aversion by Kathy Sierra)

For e5 to be successful it needs to take risks. I don’t think that we need a better tooling platform. We already have a very good one with 3.x. And it’s still improving and not going away. Instead we need a runtime that provides something unique and remarkable. It must kick-ass in a new way.

e5 needs a driver

If you try to be everything to everybody, you will at best be mediocre at everything. e5 should be laser focused on being the best runtime for ___________ developers.

People tend to avoid specialization. It is perceived as a risk. However, if you ask a marketing person he / she will tell you that specialization is good. It’s your way to get noticed. It’s your foot in the door. You build a niche, become unbeatable and expand. Eclipse 3.x first became the tooling platform of choice, then client platform of choice for Java devs, then the modeling technology of choice for Java devs.

Unfortunately e4 lacks a driver that would help it specialize and focus. A driver, like the JDT was for the Platform. As far as I know, there is no major product build on top of e4. I believe that the current e4 (Feb 2010) is not yet appealing enough for web development or client development. It will not lure web-side Java developers away from Spring / J2EE / GWT. Or client-side Java developers away from RCP. Or Javascript folks away from jQuery / Prototype / Dojo. Or Rubyists away from Rails.

It is hard to pick the right driver. I don’t want to attempt providing an answer and limit your thinking. But feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

e5 must be easy to learn & master

If you believe Eclipse 3.x is easy to get into, attend a beginner’s training. You will see how experienced Java developers struggle with the learning curve. And it’s not becoming easier with e4.

That is a problem, because it limits the mass appeal of Eclipse as a runtime solution. If you think it is a popular runtime, go to a Java User Group and see how few of the people who use Eclipse have written a plug-in for it.

It is in our human nature, that we tend to take the path that has the least resistance (read: easy) not the path that offers the most rewards (read: complex technology).

For e5 to be broadly successful it must kick-ass AND be easy to learn & master.

Looking forward to your comments,
Elias.