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JetBrains Developer Tools

It has been 10 years since I first looked at the Refactoring Tool called IntelliJ Renamer. It focused completely on refactoring Java code with no editing support. Meanwhile IntelliJ IDEA has evolved to one of the most advanced Java IDE's and JetBrains developer tools now span many languages.

JetBrains is one of the few companies that sucessfully sell their developer tools. Thats why it has been interesting to talk to Ann Oreshnikova about the underlying strategies, reasons for success and future plans and products.

Q: JetBrains is one of the few companies that thrive on selling developer tools. Even at a time where most tools are free and companies and individuals refrain from paying for them. To what do you attribute this success?

Ann: We have to attribute this to the high quality of our tools. Competition challenges us to stay in shape and make our tools deliver much more functionality and productivity benefits than free tools do.

You've probably heard the saying, "I'm not rich enough to buy cheap things." When choosing the right tool, you should consider the actual cost of ownership (COP), not just its price tag. Our products offer extensive functionality out of the box and make sure that our customers don't have to worry about builds, technical support and so on. No time wasted means a better bottom-line.

I would name innovation as our other key strength. Most of the basic IDE capabilities so widespread today were first introduced to the industry in IntelliJ IDEA.

In the end, we make a first-rate professional development tool for an affordable price, or better yet a very affordable COP. It speeds up any developer's work for years to come -- at the cost of just a couple of working days.

Q: Last year JetBrains open sourced the Community Edition of IntelliJ IDEA. How was this move accepted by your (potential) customers and developers? Did it affect the sales of the commercial offering and were the goals you had with this move achieved? Do you plan to open source other tools, like ReSharper or TeamCity as well?

Ann: Our open-source move enjoyed a very positive reception, because now it’s much easier to extend IntelliJ IDEA. As developers, many of our customers value having access to the source code.
Sales of the Ultimate Edition are growing, and our overall customer base has seen a sizeable increase. We are quite satisfied with these results. Moreover, we’re only one year into the 'open-source' era, so we definitely expect to see more long-term benefits.

As for our other tools, there are no particular plans for the time being. TeamCity, our continuous integration and build management system, is already available in a free Professional Edition, but we haven’t thought of open-sourcing it yet.

Q: In the past few months there has been a storm of new IDE products released by JetBrains. Does this imply that the separation of IDE and language related components of IDEA is finished? If so, has providing IDEs for any programming language become What new IDEs can we expect in the future?

Ann: Yes, we have 'extracted' a platform out of IntelliJ IDEA, with a plan to build several light-weight IDEs for specific languages. We have already released five: MPS (for domain-specific languages), RubyMine (for Ruby on Rails development), WebStorm and PHPStorm (for web and PHP developers), and the just-released PyCharm for Python development. We can also disclose our current project: an IDE for Objective C, which we hope to make available to early adopters in alpha builds quite soon.
This approach is part of our general strategy, because the IntelliJ Platform allows us to effectively build successful IDEs for specific languages.

Q: How much of those IDEs is based on the work done in MPS?

Ann: MPS itself is built on the IntelliJ Platform, and it serves, in turn, as a platform for creating other tools. We already mentioned YouTrack which is fully developed with MPS. More such tools are coming, but it's a bit too early to disclose specific ones right now.

Q: How do you see the current market in developer IDEs. It is divided between some commercial offerings, many free/open source ones and lots of less high ceremony editors that many people use for their daily development work. What shape will the market and the tools have say in five or ten years? Will most of the development be done in Language Workbenches like Intentional WB and MPS? Will editors and IDE become simpler again, will they be just web applications like SkyWriter (Bespin) or graphically oriented? Or totally different like codebubbles? What is your prediction there?

Ann: A comprehensive answer to that question could make for a whole new article :) We can all see that the movement towards intelligence is not finished yet in the field of tooling. This movement has been initiated by the appearance of IntelliJ IDEA, when the IDE began to understand the code – (almost) on par with the developer. This is now all in a day's work in the Java world, but other technologies are still waiting for their turn.

As for the language workbenches, it is difficult to say for sure. Until a 'critical mass' of interest gathers around a new methodology, tools are not going to be widely-used. For example, the idea of OOP first appeared in late 60s, but didn’t gain real popularity until the 90s. It is possible that with LOP it evolves faster, but again – it’s not a matter of tools, but methodologies.

Q: What IDEs can we expect from Jetbrains in the future?

Ann: We have already unveiled some of our plans :-) Yes, an Objective-C IDE is already in the works and on its way to go public. We’re also giving a lot of consideration to C++.

Q: Do you want add anything you see relevant to the topic of the article?

Ann: We are preparing some very exciting news that we would prefer not to disclose right now. People are paying attention to what we are working on, and that tells us that we’re on the right track :-) It would be safe to say that we’re focusing on and/or making strategic plans for more IDEs as well as team-working tools and agile-support tools. Thank you so much for this interview. We value your interest in the industry in general, and to what’s going on at JetBrains in particular. Have a great day!

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