RealTime IT News

Sun Unfurls NetBeans Roadmap

Sun Microsystems has unveiled a roadmap to the latest version of its NetBeans tools framework for the development of Java applications.

The release of the NetBeans Application Framework comes a day after the Santa Clara, Calif.-based systems vendor decided to join the Java-focused open source development group Eclipse, which makes a rival software development platform.

On Wednesday, Sun refused an offer to join Eclipse in a move some industry watchers say could further polarize the industry's attempt to unite Java development efforts to combat Microsoft's .NET platform.

NetBeans is the foundation for Sun's developer tools strategy and the Sun Java Studio Enterprise and Sun Java Studio Creator (code-named Project Rave) products.

Roundly criticized by some critics who believe Sun is lagging in the race to build and support Web services applications, Sun has been working hard to improve its profile as a software company that can develop high-quality tools with which to craft such applications. The roadmap features advances that are intended to extend the reach of developers building Web services applications, desktop graphical interfaces and mobile devices.

Slated to go live in the first quarter of 2004, Net Beans 3.6 will include a new, more intuitive user interface and an improved "look and feel." Sun said one feature, called "Code Folding," should allow for easier source code navigation.

Scheduled for the second half of 2004, the independent development environment of NetBeans 4.0 will include automated "refactoring" support integrated to improve code maintenance. It also is expected to include time-saving code editor features such as "Smart Imports" and "Code Completion," as well as a configurable build system to support the creation of more complex applications.

The current version, NetBeans 3.5, builds on support in the open-source IDE space for building Web applications with the JavaServer Pages technology and servlets and support for Java 2 Enterprise Edition applications.

NetBeans 3.5 allows development in several operating systems, including Solaris, Linux, Windows and Macintosh. The NetBeans 3.5 release also provides support for the development of applications targeted at the JDK 1.4 release.

NetBeans 3.5 is downloaded on average 12,500 times per day for a current figure of about 1.5 million, according to Sun officials.

Waving off critics, Ken Oestreich, who works in Sun's software strategies and Java division, told internetnews.com that Sun absolutely considers NetBeans to be on par with Eclipse. Richard Green, vice president, Developer Platforms Group at Sun, made a thinly-veiled reference to the competition in a public statement.

"The enthusiasm in the developer community based on the accelerating number of downloads demonstrates that NetBeans is beginning to eclipse other industry tools initiatives," said Green.

The NetBeans community features developers and tools vendors including Compuware, Embarcadero, Iopsis, MAKE Technologies, Nexaweb, Quest and Systinet