I want to say explicitly, we don't think Java EE needs saving. It's doing great. Java EE 6 has gained huge traction with developers. Java EE 7 is the first EE spec to be openly developed. Something I'm talking about next week at Devoxx France. Times have never been better for Java EE developers.
We do, however, want to change the old debates that have persisted over the last 10+ years.
Tomcat vs Java EE is tired and old.
As Tomcat commands so much of the market, the fact that we as developers can't agree on something so basic is a big problem. We made TomEE to address the section of people who have typically not been happy with the existing choices and graviate towards Tomcat instead.
As most these people using Tomcat do in fact use a number of Java EE technologies, the vision to reach them was pretty clear. Both Java EE and Tomcat needed to change.
In JavaEE-land, we (the JCP) created the Web Profile which is roughly half of the Full Profile. So, JavaEE shrunk, check.
Over at Apache, we took Tomcat and built it up to be a complete implementation of the Web Profile, got it certified and announced it as Apache TomEE. So, Tomcat grew.
In a very real sense TomEE is a middle ground. It represents both "sides" giving an inch and making a compromise.
As far as the Tomcat side of the compromises, we wanted to keep them as minimal as possible. We worked very hard to "go with the grain" of the Tomcat architecture, keep startup fast, keep memory low and overall keep it Tomcat.
As a result TomEE works out of the box with Tomcat-aware tools like Eclipse, NetBeans, Intellij, NewRelic, YourKit, JRebel etc. etc. This is also why we're seeing Cloud providers like Jelastic and ActiveState expand their Tomcat support to include TomEE. As well even traditional ISPs that focus on Tomcat, such as Metawerx have expanded their Tomcat support to include TomEE.
Whether or not the "Tomcat vs JavaEE" debate changes, the reality is both Tomcat and Java EE have changed.
While we don't consider ourselves the "savior of JavaEE", you can freely consider us the savior of time; time saved arguing and reinventing wheels.