Borland has upgraded its JBuilder integrated development environment (IDE). But the future of the commercial IDE market is clouded, with Eclipse providing base technologies for free.

JBuilder 2006 contains peer-to-peer developer collaboration, new Java standards support and productivity enhancements. But the company, like rival BEA Systems, intends to base future versions of its IDE on the Eclipse platform, which features an IDE itself.

Borland execs say they are confident of JBuilder’s ability to maintain market presence by offering features that Eclipse doesn't yet have, such as visual designers and advanced re-factoring. They acknowledge that Eclipse will continue to add new capabilities but "Borland is always focused higher and higher", said Rob Cheng, Borland's director of product marketing for developer solutions.

"I think the confusion is that a lot of people equate Eclipse with an IDE, but what they don’t realise is that first and foremost Eclipse is an application integration framework," Cheng said.

The future Eclipse-based version of JBuilder, called Peloton, is due in the first half of 2006. It will include JBuilder’s usability and collaboration features as well as application lifecycle management integrations.

Analysts have also taken note of the impact Eclipse has had on commercial IDEs. "We’re seeing a growing appetite in the developer community for Eclipse," said analyst John Andrews, chief operating officer at Evans Data. Evans estimates that Eclipse has a market share of 20 to 30 percent in the IDE space. Growth is coming at the expense of commercial IDEs.

"Eclipse’s market share is growing and most of the other commercial, closed IDEs stayed fairly flat," Edwards said. "You can already see the effect that Eclipse has had on the revenues of vendors like Borland, and on Oracle’s decision to offer JDeveloper for free, charging only for support," said Forrester analyst Carl Zetie. "We see Eclipse being used in close to 50 percent of enterprise development shops already - and in some cases, even when the official tool is a commercial IDE, it's really Eclipse that’s being used."

But all is not lost for commercial IDE providers, according to Zetie. "As for commercial vendors, you have to remember that Eclipse provides a barebones IDE," he said. "It really doesn’t compete in features and functions with an enterprise IDE, nor does it try to. So what commercial vendors need to do is to focus on adding value in the form of more sophisticated capabilities on top of the commoditized base features that Eclipse provides for free."

JBuilder 2006 will be available in three editions. The Enterprise Edition, which features the peer-to-peer functions, visual designers, code quality tools and other enterprise-level capabilities, costs $3,500 per developer. The Developer Edition, which offers lower-level visual editors, costs $500 per seat. The free Foundation edition provides code and IDE productivity features but lacks the more enterprise-related functions.