As you already heard from Geertjan’s Blog, Oracle submitted NetBeans IDE to the Apache Foundation. Geertjan’s post focuses on the good aspects of that move. NetBeans has been open-source before, so we would not lose the forked source in any case, but what will be different?
The major change affects licensing: The Apache license does not allow certain dependencies ((L)GPL), so NetBeans will need to make adjustments (I don’t know what kind) to its code base to work around that.
One big difference will be, that commercial sponsors have time, knowledge, and capacity to include valuable integrations out of the box. Being the reference implementation for the newest Java features always was a unique selling point for NetBeans. Oracle said it will not withdraw its employees (not right away…) and Java 9 seems to be covered. But with more and more volunteers replacing paid employees, will future integrations come with the same speed and depth as before?
On the other hand, Apache is more neutral and a lot more open, which is definitely more fitting for NetBeans than Oracle was. That will likely inspire new contributions from projects that previously did not want to, or could not, work together with Oracle. In the worst case, the IDE will lose depth on one side and regain depth on another side?
The Apache Foundation is an NPO, and it pays for its servers with donations and it is staffed by volunteers. NetBeans has had many volunteers before, but the large advances were always made by paid developers with internal knowledge of the JDK, and for whom this was their dayjob. Consider that large companies only switch to an IDE if there is professional support for it. Apache does not offer support themselves, but the success of the Apache servers has resulted in several companies being founded that offer commercial support for them — the same could happen with NetBeans.
NetBeans was fortunate that it was supported by commercial sponsors (Sun Microsystems and Oracle) during its “adolescence”, while it grew and developed the most. Now it is “an adult”, its main features are solid. I think it is actually in a position where it has a fair chance fending for itself. I for one already signed up to be a wiki author on apache.org, let’s see!