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Sun Launches Java Tool Community

Sun Microsystems put its Java Tools Community (JTC) in motion Tuesday as an answer to its rejection of the Eclipse Project, the company announced Tuesday.

But instead of the Java-buster many within the open-source community feared would happen as a result, core members of the new organization say they are going to work closely with the IBM-founded organization.

Eight companies -- BEA Systems , Compuware, Oracle , SAP , Quest Software, SAS, JetBrains and Iopsis Software -- joined Sun in announcing the JTC as a sister organization to the Java Community Process (JCP), the standards body for the Java programming language.

JTC officials stressed they would be working from within the JCP to create application program interfaces (API) that better serve the Java developer community, not split the Java development community in two. The two organizations, Eclipse and JTC, are not mutually exclusive, they said.

The Sun/IBM flap began last month, when Sun refused an offer to join the Eclipse organization. Eclipse is a two-year-old open-source organization founded by IBM to create a developer community like Microsoft Developer Community and Sun's NetBeans.

When Sun refused to join Eclipse, many feared a rift in the Java community, as one faction of developers rallied to NetBeans, while another went to Eclipse. NetBeans is the foundation for Sun's Java Studio Enterprise suite, and recently added functionality on par with Eclipse.

Both tools are integrated development environments that allow developers to create applications regardless of software platform.

Oracle is a member of both Eclipse and now JTC, and sees no conflict between the two organizations. Where Eclipse is an implementation, JTC will work on the mindset within the JCP to create better developer tools. To date, Java improvements have centered on increased application runtime performance; Ted Farrell, Oracle application development tools chief architect, says JTC will be there to put in a word for developers.

"What we'd like to see is representation across the board for tools, people on every (JCP) expert group going 'hey, this is a great standard not really related with tools, but how are people going to build with this? How are tool vendors going to expose this to the users?' " he said. "Once we get that mind-set flowing through the JCP, the possibilities are endless."

While the creation of JTC should be a relief for many, Thomas Murphy, senior program director at META Group, said the organization's formation creates a lot more questions than it solves, namely, why isn't something like this in place already?

Murphy sees the JTC as little more than a working group for the JCP, since the body doesn't create standards and doesn't provide an IDE, only provides suggestions for working JSRs. It's something that should have been in place within the community years ago.

"It just shows that there continue to be shortcomings in the JCP," Murphy told internetnews.com .

The JTC is also a way of minimizing the increasing popularity of Eclipse, he said, which is finding a lot of support within the software vendor community, and keeping it from becoming a de facto standard. In mid-2003, chipmaker Intel was the latest blue ribbon tech company to join the open-source organization.

"Eclipse needed to be put in a container," he said.

Eclipse officials, for their part, welcomed news of the new Java tools organization. Skip McGaughey, Eclipse chairperson, told internetnews.com his organization is happy to support the JTC.

"We want to support any industry initiatives that contribute to tool integration and interoperability," he said. "We see the JTC as a way to help providers and tool users consolidate their requirements and influence the JCP."