Microsoft, IBM: IDEs to evolve

Expect development environments to accommodate cloud computing, multiple CPUs, and other concepts, officials say at conference

IDEs (integrated development environments) have stayed basically the same over the years and now it is time for them to evolve to accommodate concepts like cloud computing, dignitaries from Microsoft and IBM said during a Silicon Valley technical conference on Thursday.

Speaking at the EclipseCon 2009 event in Santa Clara, Calif., Microsoft's Tim Wagner, development manager for Visual Studio, and IBM's Kevin McGuire, senior software developer for user interfaces and Eclipse, reflected on where IDEs have been and where they are going. Microsoft Visual Studio, first released in June 1998, and the rival Eclipse open source IDE, which debuted in November 2001, are the most prominent IDEs in use these days.

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"It's amazing how much stuff we have today [that] was in Eclipse 1.0," such as code completion, McGuire said. Concurring about the lack of change, Wagner added, "You kind of go back eight, nine years, and it looks pretty much the same. All has changed around us, so much of this has stayed the same."

The two officials cited industry changes, such as the jump in CPU power, systems running multiple CPUs, use of multiple monitors, and cloud computing. IDEs must adapt to industry changes, the officials argued.

An IDE in the browser makes sense, they said. This is particularly the case with software being made by teams. For instance, developers use the Bugzilla bug tracker, which is online, and source code is stored on server in a repository.

Microsoft, with its planned Visual Studio 2010 IDE, will add support for use of multiple monitors, Wagner acknowledged. The speakers showed a slide in which a monitor on the left maintained a debugging session while files were on the right monitor.

In the cloud computing space, Wagner cited the Mozilla Bespin project, providing an online code editor, and the G.ho.st virtual computer, offering a desktop editor in the cloud, as advancements. Developers can expect cloud IDE capabilities from Eclipse. "I think that's a natural evolution, and I think that the Bespin technology is leading the way," McGuire said.

Microsoft has sights set on a version of Visual Studio in the cloud at some point. "It's still very much a prototype effort," Wagner said.

At one point during the presentation, a slide appeared noting that in 2001, Windows XP was the Microsoft OS to have at the moment. Then the slide humorously adds, "OK, that's still true," reflecting on difficulties Microsoft has had in gaining market acceptance of the successor Windows Vista OS.

"Let's not go there," Wagner remarked after the slide appeared.

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