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Eclipse to split from IBM

The open-source development tools organization is set to transition from an IBM spin-off to an independent foundation by next month.

Eclipse, an open-source development tools organization backed by IBM, plans to transition to an independent foundation by next month, a representative said on Tuesday.

The Eclipse consortium has filed papers to change its corporate status and expects to complete the process by the first week of February, said Eclipse chairman Skip McGaughey. The long-expected change is timed to coincide with an Eclipse technical conference, EclipseCon 2004, to be held in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 2-5.

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The current Eclipse consortium, made up of about 50 software companies, will be incorporated as the Eclipse Foundation, a nonprofit modeled after other successful open-source organizations, such as the Apache Foundation, said McGaughey.

Eclipse will establish tiered membership levels and a board of directors made up of "strategic partners," which will contribute cash and personnel to Eclipse, he said.

The plan is to create a board with members from small and large companies representing traditional information technology, Linux and embedded systems, McGaughey said. Membership is free for individual contributors and nonprofit organizations, such as universities and other open-source outfits. Commercial companies can also join for $5,000 if at least one commercial product is based on Eclipse.

Eclipse's transition from a consortium to an open-source organization is a long-awaited move in the development tools segment of the software industry.

IBM started Eclipse in November 2001 with a $40 million donation and has contributed significantly to its development. The Eclipse software creates a "framework" for using different development tools, such as a code editor and an application modeling tool, within the same application.

Some software industry executives have complained that IBM dominates Eclipse. The Eclipse code is the basis for IBM's strategy to create a common development environment for all its software products. In citing reasons why Java creator Sun Microsystems did not join Eclipse last month, Sun said that "IBM ultimately proved unwilling to offer any equitable proposals, while rejecting two of our own."

McGaughey, an IBM executive on loan to Eclipse, characterized Eclipse's decision to become an independent foundation as an evolution.

"It's really hard to have an industry initiative of the significance of Eclipse when one company dominates," he said. "Eclipse is too big for any one company."

Eclipse membership has grown quickly over the past year and a half to 50 companies, and the software has become very popular with Java programmers, in particular.