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Martin LaMonica

Staff Writer, CNET

BURLINGAME, Calif.–Looking to build on the popularity of its Java development tool, the Eclipse open-source foundation is eyeing initiatives targeting everything from programming for embedded systems to working with standards organizations in the health care industry.

Members of Eclipse on Tuesday detailed some of those proposed projects, as well as others in development, at the three-day sold-out EclipseCon show just south of San Francisco. The projects would be run through the open-source organization–which has seen a large pickup in participation from software vendors over the past two years–and build off the Eclipse application development tool.

Eclipse software provides an avenue for combining several tools in a single application. A programmer could, for example, use a code editor in conjunction with a testing tool from the same front-end interface.

The availability of many Eclipse plug-ins, and the fact that developers can download Eclipse for free, has helped fuel the adoption of Eclipse with Java developers and Java software companies. The Eclipse “framework,” however, can be expanded into other areas, according to Eclipse members.

Computer Associates International, which will join the organization’s board this year, intends to propose an Eclipse project in systems management within the next month, according to Robert Levy, senior vice president of data and lifecycle management at CA.

The proposal aims to make applications under development easier to manage once they’re up and running, he said. The idea is to create broadly used software to let programmers add “instrumentation” to applications so that their performance can be easily tracked by systems management products, he said.

The software would also look to eliminate glitches that occur when applications are moved from development into actual use, Levy added. Microsoft has a similar technology under development in its Visual Studio 2005 Team System.

Another significant departure for Eclipse that’s under development is a move into tools for building applications targeted at specific industries. In particular, the organization is exploring a way to work with standards organizations in the health care industry, said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of Eclipse.

The goal of the project is to simplify the process of building health care applications by having built-in support for health care data-sharing standards, such as those for handling medical records, he said. “We see open source as complementary to open standards if they are prevalent,” Milinkovich said.

One Eclipse member said that Eclipse software can be applied even more broadly than development tools. The Eclipse Rich Client Platform, which IBM uses in its Workplace client software, could conceivably be used as a replacement to Windows on the desktop, although no vendor has tried to sell it as such, said Michael Norman, CEO of Scapa Technologies.

Eclipse “looks remarkably like an operating system–a modular, componentized operating system,” Norman said.

The EclipseCon conference, the second the group has put on, attracts corporate developers and independent software vendors from the United States, Europe and Asia.