Google continued its acquisition spree today by snapping up another one of my favorite companies, Instantiations. The purchase was announced in an email from Eric Clayberg, VP of Product Development. He writes:
I have exciting news to share about important developments here at Instantiations... Instantiations’ award-winning Java and Ajax development tools and our incredible Eclipse team have been acquired by Google! We're all very excited about taking our technology and team to the next level - and there is no bigger step up than Google!
Instantiations has apparently been acquired by the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) team at Google, so their focus will primarily be in that space. I suspect it was Instantiation's GWT Designer product that got Google's attention in the first place. Not only is it a GUI designer, but it integrates deeply into Eclipse's building and editing environment to enable developers to create GWT programs quickly and easily. While plans have not yet been announced, I expect that GWT Designer will become part of Google's free GWT developer toolkit.
Like Eclipse itself, Instantiations has its roots in Smalltalk. Google did not buy that part of the business; in fact the Smalltalk part has been spun off into a new company that keeps the old name, Instantiations. This company, lead by CEO Mike Taylor, will develop and support all the current Smalltalk products including VA Smalltalk, an award-winning Smalltalk IDE.
Besides its GWT and Smalltalk tools, Instantiations is also known for its excellent WindowBuilder Pro product for Swing and SWT. They allow developers to create powerful user interfaces by just clicking and dragging interface elements like buttons and listboxes and data sources onto a canvas. This may be just wishful thinking but it would be terrific if Google would donate WindowBuilder to the Eclipse project.
Eclipse developers have been working for years on a visual editor for Java Swing and SWT programs. The starting point was a block of code called the Visual Editor, donated by IBM a few years ago. Unfortunately, VE never achieved the same level of usability and polish of its main competitor, the "Matisse" project that was part of Sun's NetBeans. WindowBuilder Pro is at least as good as if not better than the NetBeans offering. Having it be an official, free, open source part of Eclipse would be a godsend for Java desktop developers.
Instantiations other products include the CodePro Profiler for Java performance analysis, RCP Developer for Eclipse Rich Client program development, and CodeProAnalytiX for static code checking. The CodePro Profiler might find itself working with GWT's new Speed Tracer utility, which was demonstrated at this year's Google I/O conference. Speed Tracer provides a holistic snapshot and diagnostic tool for tracking end-to-end performance problems in web applications.
RCP Developer is quite nice, so it's a shame that the industry has largely moved on from Rich Client Java development towards HTML5, Flash, and mobile platforms. It's a great product so there may be enough interest in it to sustain it as a viable open source community under the Eclipse umbrella.
Most people have never heard of CodeProAnalytiX but its powerful rule based engine can ferret out any number of bugs, security holes, and standards issues even in massive code bases. It's kind of a niche product, but it's one of those tools that if you need it, you really need it.
With this purchase, Google has acquired not only a powerful set of tools, but an outstanding team to go along with them. It will be interesting to see what the team can cook up in the months and years to come with Google's resources behind them.