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IBM Upgrades Rational Development Tools, Beefs Up Support For Open Source Eclipse

IBM updated its Rational 7.0 desktop development tools on Tuesday, and for the first time offered commercial support for the open source Eclipse programmer's workbench as well as the Rational tools that plug into it.

There's been a tight relationship between Rational tools and the Eclipse workbench since 2003, as IBM started basing the Rational tool suite on compatibility with the Eclipse shared development environment. With today's release of Version 7.0 tools, IBM is extending commercial technical support, not only to the tools, but to the workbench itself, which it had declined to do in the past.

"We had a few customers who sought it. The support became a successful offering so we decided to roll it out more broadly," said IBM's Scott Hebner, VP of strategy for IBM tools.

The move shows how central Eclipse has become to IBM and other tool suppliers. Because IBM's and other vendors' tools can be plugged into it, following a set of shared file formats and development conventions, Eclipse allows one tool to work with another, whether its originators designed it that way or not.

Eclipse is central to IBM's strategy to compete with Microsoft's Visual, which also offers multiple tools in a shared Windows environment. "Eclipse has really struck a nerve. The success of Java and Eclipse are inter-related," Hebner said.

Java is deeply entrenched in the enterprise and continues to attract programmers. Some 45% of programmers used Java at the end of November, compared with 40% using C and C++ and 32% using C#, Microsoft's answer to Java, according to a survey by Evans Data. Visual Basic, once Microsoft's most popular language, fell in usage 35% since the spring.

"Microsoft has dominated languages since the early 1990s but we are seeing much more parity now," said John Andrews, president of Evans Data.

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