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Java Toolmakers Work For Peace - InternetNews.
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Java Toolmakers Work For Peace

It's no secret that Sun Microsystems developed Java as a cross-platform runtime language to compete with rival Microsoft's platforms. Now, a society of Java-based software makers is looking to make sure all those tools can interoperate with each other.

Sources familiar with the situation told internetnews.com Monday that a coalition spearheaded by Sun and Oracle is requesting that companies work together to make sure developers write Java tool extensions once that can then integrate with any other standards-based Java integrated development environment .

SAP , Sybase , BEA Systems and Compuware are also involved with the project, according to a source familiar with the situation, while Borland and IBM are still in strategic talks about it.

Tentatively called the Java Tools Community, the group is focused on bringing tools vendors together with the common goal of a unified application framework. Many of the details are proprietary and confidential; a source at Sun said the company has been working on this for several months.

The new effort comes as partners, independent developers, and open source programmers struggle to address multiple extensions or add-ins needed to integrate with Java IDEs --one for each of the IDEs with which they want to integrate. Because there are no set standards in this arena, each vendor has designed its own way to extend its own IDE.

Oracle9i JDeveloper, Eclipse/WebSphere Studio Application Developer, SunOne Studio/NetBeans, Borland JBuilder and others each use proprietary extension kits. As each extension kit often offers the same core capabilities -- only implemented differently -- the JSR submitted by Oracle hopes to standardize the extension API so that extensions are interoperable among IDE's.

"We saw the opportunity to take the work being done on JSR 198 a step further and it became clear that setting up the goal of a 'unified application framework' would benefit all of us," a Sun official said. "So there have been conversations happening between the companies, and the next steps will very likely be to agree on scope of arrangement, and any formalities around collaborating together."

Oracle spokesperson Julie Greer-Brown said the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based database company is always working to promote interoperability in Java standards.

"We have ongoing discussions with our colleagues in the JCP around this issue," she said.

Much of the commonality within the tribes lie within Java Service Request (JSR) 198 ("The Standard Extension API for Integrated Development Environments"). Submitted by Oracle on November 8, 2002, the proposal is aimed at establishing a common API for extending Java IDEs. With the finalization of the specification as a standard, Java developers and partners will be able to write an extension to the API once and have that extension automatically interoperate with any other Java IDE that adheres to the standard without any changes.

The new JSR API is based solely on Java technology standards, including Abstract Windowing Toolkit (AWT) and Swing for creating graphical user interface (GUI) application components, such as buttons and dialogs.

The Java Tools initiative is similar in effect to IBM's Eclipse consortium, an open source project to provide a general purpose IDE for developers, which the company calls "an open extensible IDE for anything and nothing in particular."

The project is divided into three segments. They consist of the Eclipse Project, the Eclipse Tools Project and the EclipseTechnology Project. Each of which is overseen by a Project Management Committee (PMC) and governed by its Project Charter. Each project is composed of its own subprojects and is licensed under the Common Public License (CPL) version 1.0.

Oracle joined the Eclipse board recently to make sure that Eclipse developers can take advantage of the Oracle deployment platform (i.e. database and application server) in the same way as developers using Oracle's Java development IDE - Oracle9i JDeveloper. Oracle acknowledges that Eclipse has gained some momentum since its introduction to the market place and wants to ensure that Eclipse developers have access to the right tools and resources to create applications for the Oracle9i Application Server and Oracle9i database.

"Defining a standard way to extend any Java development environment with new functionality will speed time to innovation in the application development industry," said Gartner analyst Mark Driver. "Now third party tool vendors and the open source community can easily integrate their offerings with the major vendors' development tools."

Oracle said its next step is to get more companies behind its Java initiative.

Officially, the companies are continuing to consider the opportunities regarding an open approach to Java tools and have not decided on making its process public. But sources tell internetnews.com that Getting Borland and/or IBM on their team would be a tremendous boost in the arm.

On certain occasions Java Tool Community products are released under the Early Access Program to gather developer feedback and also provide a preview of what is to come in the future.