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The thinking behind JetBrains’ open source strategyMatthew Aslett, January 7, 2010 @ 6:49 am ET
Development tools vendor JetBrains caused something of a stir in October last year with the news that it was releasing an open source Community Edition of its popular IntelliJ Idea Java IDE using the Apache License.
IntelliJ Idea 9 was duly released in both Ultimate Edition and Community Edition forms at the beginning of December, and just before Christmas I was able to catch up with Ann Oreshnikova, the company’s marketing director, to gain some insight into how and why the company decided to release IntelliJ Idea Community Edition.
The resulting report is now available to 451 Group clients, and discusses the move in the context of JetBrains’ history and wider product strategies.
Here’s a few select highlights:
- The company claims 49,000 paying customers, of which 24,000 are individual developers, for its various products.
- The concept of releasing the Community Edition began over a year ago as JetBrains began to extract the code for the core IDE platform from IntelliJ IDEA to use as a building block for other development products.
- While other licenses were considered, the Apache License most suited its own requirement to use the Community Edition code in the creation of proprietary software while encouraging collaborative development.*
- JetBrains recognizes that this is a potential risk given that the Apache License enables businesses and individuals to take the Community Edition code and use it to create proprietary software that competes with Ultimate Edition. But it also notes that it will remain the center of IntelliJ expertise.
- Community Edition is described as a lightweight IDE for plain Java development, with XML and Groovy support.
- Ultimate Edition includes support for more languages, as well as development frameworks, application servers, and version control systems.
- The main benefit JetBrains is expecting from the release of Community Edition is to grow the adoption of IntelliJ IDEA and the profile of JetBrains.
- While the company expects some Community Edition users to pay for the additional features available with Ultimate Edition, it is not planning to target users with hard sales tactics, reasoning that an expansion in the profile of IntelliJ IDEA will result in increased potential adoption of all its proprietary products.
- The company reported tens of thousands of downloads of the Community Edition Public Preview, but it believes many users were waiting for the final release of IntelliJ IDEA 9 before deciding to use the Community Edition in live development projects.
*In order to achieve its technology goals JetBrains could have made use of the GPL and the vendor-controlled open core licensing model. We previously noted that the choice of Apache was significant. It indicates that the company is prepared to trade control for community, and we would expect it to reap the benefits in terms of increased adoption for IntelliJ Idea and its other products. The open source release – and the license choice – better enables JetBrains to compete against open source IDEs, as well as the large number of proprietary alternatives based on Eclipse.
For more on JetBrains’ strategy, see our 451 Group Market Insight Service Impact Report.
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