Eclipse has long been one of my favourite open source projects, despite, or maybe even because, it's not as widely appreciated as it should be – though more now than it was three years ago when I described it as Open Source's Best-Kept Secret.
Eclipse is a great open source project for many reasons. I admire the way it was started by IBM and released by them once a strong enough community had grown up around it.
It's also good to see how the ambitions of the project have grown far beyond ithe initial aims of producing a great, free development tool for Java. Finally, I'm a big fan because as a result of that growth and maturing, it's now a serious rival to Microsoft's development offerings.
Given that Eclipse has changed a lot in recent years, the 2009 Community Survey provides a useful opportunity to find out where it stands today. Of course, it's not representative of the wider computer world, since it's biased in all kinds of ways, but in nonetheless contains some very interesting results.
For me, the highlight is the following:
Developers appear to be shifting away from Microsoft Windows to Linux and Mac OSX for their development operating system. 26.9% of respondents cite Linux was as primary desktop operating system, representing a 7 percentage point increase from 2007.
Though Windows is still the dominant development OS at 64%, it has decreased 10 percentage points from 2007. The most popular Linux variant of choice among developers is Ubuntu, which accounts for over half of Linux respondents. Mac OSX has increase to 6.9% from 3.5% in 2007.
These are developers, not end-users, but even so, the percentage changes are significant, particularly in the light of the deployment figures:
Linux is taking an increase share of the deployment operating system environment. 42.7% of the respondents selected Linux as their deployment environment; an increase from 37% in 2007. Ubuntu (12%) and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (10.2%) are the leading Linux distros.
Similar to the developer desktop, there has been a decrease in the use of Windows as a deployment environment from 47% in 2007 to 40.5% in 2009. Also, there appears to have been a decrease in the use of Sun Solaris/OpenSolaris as a deployment environment from 8% in 2007 to 5.2% in 2009.
I think it's true to say that GNU/Linux was always stronger in deployment than on the desktop for Eclipse users, so it's good to see progress made in the latter sector. It's also pretty impressive that GNU/Linux has now surpassed Windows for deployment.
The reason these are important trends goes back to my opening comments. Eclipse is a very important open source project, and is likely to become widely used among companies. If the above figures for desktop and deployment are maintained as take-up increases, together they represent very important beachheads in the overall desktop and server markets. That's probably another reason I really like Eclipse: the more it succeeds, the more it carries open source of all kinds with it.