RealTime IT News

Sun, IBM Solidify Tools Rift

The gulf between two Java programming language integrated development environments (IDEs) grew wider Wednesday when IBM and Sun Microsystems released enhancements for their respective platforms.

The release signals that both companies could be willing to forgo a unified Java developer tools platform and instead concentrate on their respective IDEs: Sun's NetBeans and IBM's Eclipse.

An attempt by both parties to combine the two platforms in December 2003 stalled when officials on both sides couldn't agree on the level of support NetBeans would receive in the Eclipse platform.

Since December, Sun has been beta testing its Java Studio Creator with approximately 100 developers and plans to release a public "Early Access" release this spring.

The platform, which used to fall under the code name "Project Rave," is a Java-based tool providing drag-and-drop user interfaces, event-based coding models, and simplified access to databases and Web services to speed up the coding process.

Studio Creator is built upon the NetBeans 3.5 IDE and will run on the Solaris, Windows and Linux operating systems when it becomes generally available this summer.

Phase Two of the program, announced Wednesday, takes the feedback generated in Phase One (beta testing) and gives Sun officials the opportunity to clean up their code.

"By the release of the Early Access code, we expect a very stable code base for developers to test drive," said Rich Green, Sun developer platforms group vice president, in a statement.

Meanwhile, IBM announced Wednesday eight new PowerPack kits that help developers evaluate products on the IBM Software Development Platform, which uses the Eclipse IDE. The platform, like Sun's Studio Creator, gives programmers tools to speed up the development process.

The PowerPacks are divided by a specific audience: analyst, architect, IT manager, tester and project manager. With them, IBM officials say development teams can automate and integrate business processes between customers, suppliers and partners.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based company also expanded its On Demand Resource Center to include more support for developers in their software development program. Online training, forums and downloads are now available for registered users.

To date, Eclipse has enjoyed more popularity among developers than Sun's comparable IDE. While NetBeans has been downloaded 2.1 million times since its release last June, Eclipse has been downloaded 18 million times since its inception in 2001.

Eclipse, founded through a $40 million software donation by IBM and made up of 49 enterprise members, has also gained more acceptance from developers, who view the Eclipse 2.1.2 IDE as a more stable platform.

Sun contends the growing rift between Eclipse and NetBeans is hurting the Java community, to the benefit of Microsoft and its .NET platform using C-based languages and Visual Basic.

James Gosling, Sun developer platform CTO, recently said interoperability between application servers has been hampered because of competing IDEs, namely Eclipse.