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IBM makes $40 million open-source offer

The Big Blue donation will come in the form of software tools for Eclipse, an organization for developers creating applications for e-businesses and Web services.

IBM announced on Monday that it will donate $40 million of its software tools to the public domain in a move to create an open-source organization aimed at developers.

An organization called Eclipse will make available some of IBM's software programming tools to developers to create applications for e-businesses and Web services. More than 150 of the leading open-source companies, such as Linux distributors Red Hat and SuSE, along with Merant, QSSL and Rational, will be part of the Eclipse community.

IBM has made a strong push into the open-source sector in recent years. Open source and free software represent a challenge to Microsoft and its ubiquitous Windows operating system software that can cost businesses thousands of dollars a month to license. Open-source applications are generally considered lower-cost alternatives.

"It shows IBM's commitment to open-source software," said IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky. "It also shows that IBM understands that to reach business developers to create open-source applications, it has to let them adopt software tools for open source to be successful in major enterprises.

"Convincing the developers inside of large organizations or the developers that create software for large organizations to use open-source tools is critical," Kusnetzky added.

Nearly a year ago, IBM said it would plow $1 billion into Linux--underscoring its increasing commitment to the open-source operating system--across all product lines: PCs, portables, servers and mainframes.

For IBM, Linux represents a single operating system that can span a range of disparate hardware, from wristwatches to the company's multimillion-dollar supercomputers. IBM also sees Linux and open source giving it a competitive edge for developer talent over Sun Microsystems and its proprietary Solaris operating system.

Gartner analysts Joseph Feiman and Mark Driver say the implications of IBM's announcement to donate $40 million in software tools to the public domain, through an organization called Eclipse, are not only significant, but far reaching.

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By seeding the market with tools for building open-source software, IBM gains a large base of developers building applications that can run on its servers. The company could also benefit by offering to its customers programs built under the open-source development model, in which thousands of programmers can collaborate on writing and debugging software.

Monday's announcement marks another step in the company's Linux strategy. The Eclipse-based tools run on both Linux and Windows, which allows developers to create a single application rather than going through the hassle of creating software in Windows and transferring it to Linux, according to IBM.

The hope for Eclipse is that with tools that work directly on both operating systems, Linux developers can more easily turn to the more abundant software tools available for Windows, helping to increase the number of available Linux applications.

IBM said that more than 1,200 individual developers from 63 countries are participating in the Eclipse open-source community.'s Mike Ricciuti contributed to this report.