I don't have access to the actual Evans report, but some of the reported quotes are classic. One key finding: Eclipse is less functional than Rational Application Developer and Netbeans is less functional than Java Studio (not sure if they meant Creator or Enterprise but it doesn't really matter).
Let's take a moment to think about this. Rational Application Developer uses Eclipse and several other Eclipse projects (EMF, GEF, etc.) as a base and adds features on top of them. Java Studio I believe does the same thing with NetBeans. This study concludes that RAD is more functional than Eclipse and Java Studio is more functional than NetBeans. While this is true, it's like comparing a fully-blown home theater with just the TV part of the home theater and saying the home theater offers more than the TV. Well, yes - that's the point.
The Eclipse Project proper, sans all other plug-ins, only tries to provide three things:
- the basic platform runtime (the plug-in component architecture, the extension registry, the widget toolkit, etc.)
- Java development tools; not web ui, not J2EE, not web services - Java
- tools for creating Eclipse plug-ins a.k.a. the Plug-in Development Environment (PDE)
Open source applications are by nature dynamic and evolutionary. While they initially have a disadvantage to applications that are carefully researched, designed, architected and produced by vendors that stand behind their products with support and service, the force of the community behind them will look at weaknesses as opportunities and they will be addressed in innovative and most likely powerful ways.Excuse me for a moment while I smack my forehead.
Ok. I really, really, really hope that in the context of the report that statement wasn't trying to imply that Eclipse wasn't carefully researched, designed, and architected vis a vis applications built on top of Eclipse. It certainly sounds that way in the context of the InfoWorld article (and to be fair, it's happened on more than one occasion in the history of the world that an article's taken a direct quote out of context). So let me just address the implication of the InfoWorld article since I haven't read the full Evans report.
Just think about it; considering that Eclipse provides the basic runtime and platform services for RAD (and a bazillion other apps) and NetBeans plays a similar role for Java Studio, would it make sense to have a "carefully researched, designed, and architected" set of application-level functionality on top of a crappy base platform? That would be like building a house with a beautifully-architected third-floor built on a foundation of mud. If anything, platform-level functionality must be much more rigorously designed than application-level functionality, because flaws in the base platform ripple out to all applications that depend on the flawed function. It's all about the dependencies - the amount of pain introduced into a software ecosystem is a function of the flaw's severity and the number of components affected by the flaw.
Actually, the whole notion that a vendor has an inherent advantage over an open source community is wrong. It's all about the quality of the designers. Great software springs from great technical leaders; it doesn't matter if the leader is working in the context of a corporation (e.g. Gene Amdahl on IBM System 360, Ray Ozzie on Lotus Notes, Dave Cutler on Windows NT) or in the context of an open source community (e.g. Bill Joy on BSD Unix, Linus Torvalds on the Linux kernel, Matz on the Ruby programming language). Resources help, but ultimately without great technical leadership, any big technical undertaking is doomed to mediocrity at best, outright failure at worst.
So basically, comparing Eclipse vs. any Eclipse application on features just makes no sense. The success of the Eclipse platform should be measured on the quality of the applications built on top of it. And when you see announcements like NASA building on top of Eclipse for mission to Mars operational software and Macromedia moving their future Flash development tools on to Eclipse it bodes well for the quality of the platform.