Saturday, April 08, 2006


Reactions to EiffelStudio going open source

The reaction to the open-sourcing of EiffelStudio has generally been very positive, but one group of people has mentioned on comp.lang.eiffel that the move doesn't help them. They are the individual developers of commercial software who would like to use Eiffel for their products, but who neither need nor can afford an "Enterprise" package.

There is certainly a gap in the market for a comprehensive multi-platform commercial Eiffel product in the $500 to $1000 range. The customers are businesses such as Hubert Cater's Fury Software and Lothar Scholtz's Scriptolutions. It isn't a huge niche, and in any case there have been reports that special pricing has been negotiated for ISE Eiffel licensing by small commercial developers.

Lothar wrote in comp.lang.eiffel:
For me it looks like the VE deal - a last cry for help and a last try to get some more market shares. But i would really be surprised it this helps. What Eiffel needs is developer time to add additional stuff and that is something you don't get for free.
I don't think that's quite accurate or fair. Firstly, it's hardly a "last cry for help". A glance at the subversion commit logs for the last few days shows that there is a most impressive amount of ongoing product development by a wide range of developers including long-time Eiffel developers such as Emmanuel Stapf, Alexander Kogtenkov and Jocelyn Fiat.

Secondly, the open sourcing of EiffelStudio is going to make its use much more practical for those studying under Bertrand Meyer at ETH Zurich, and will bring in a huge amount of additional developer time. To get a feel for the constraints under which ISE Eiffel had been used at ETH, and the relief when those constraints were lifted, have a look at these two blog entries by Daniel Baumann, who was doing the Debian packaging for Eiffel projects such as EiffelMedia:
In time I expect Bertrand Meyer will reveal more about the motivations behind open-sourcing EiffelStudio. In the meantime, it's interesting to look again at what he wrote in 1999 for Software Development Magazine about The Ethics of Free Software.

In particular, Bertrand Meyer was keen to see more precise terms used than the "catch-all term of free software". He suggested that the following five categories "seem to exhaust the economic possibilities":
Bertrand Meyer wrote:
For example the GNU Eiffel compiler was developed at the University of Nancy by employees of that university who (in contrast with commercial Eiffel vendors, who need paying customers to survive) get every month a salary from the State, whether the users are happy or not with the product. This is a typical case of taxpayer-funded software.
Well, there is now one more GPL Eiffel compiler to which that will apply, at least in some part.

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