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Sun To Open Java Studio Creator

Sun Microsystems will release an early access version of its Java Studio Creator (JSC) to the public April 8, internetnews.com has learned.

The developer tool, formerly called Project Rave, is considered an essential tool for the Java programming community to gain mainstream acceptance in software shops; to date, tools like the NetBeans and Eclipse integrated development environments (IDE) cater to experienced programmers, but there haven't been many tools that make Java palatable to novice developers.

For the past several months, approximately 200 invitation-only developers have been testing JSC. Officials say the version released April 8 will be a beta-quality release, with most of the alpha version bugs rooted out by then. They are also still working out pricing for the tool; pricing information is expected in the coming weeks.

Stephen O'Grady, an analyst for Redmonk, said the software tool fills a significant hole in the Java community, one that will stop a lot of defections to Microsoft's Visual Studio, if not bring a legion of .NET programmers to the Java fold.

"It's not so much as poaching Microsoft developers, but instead preventing Java folks from leaving," he told internetnews.com. "Now that companies have more money, and are beginning to ramp up their development efforts; things like time to market are important again, and the ability to roll out new features quickly is certainly a differentiator. That was a problem for Java community, in that it was difficult for some of the junior staff folks to be more productive and spit out Web applications quickly. Quite simply, Java was not conducive to that process."

With more than 10,000 developers registered to download the product, anticipation for JSC couldn't be bigger. After all, this is potentially the tool that will topple Microsoft's dominance in the 'drag-and-drop' arena of software development. Not only does JSC open the door to novice programmers, it shortens development time for new applications and ports to Windows, Linux and Solaris operating system environments. At least, support for the three OS's is expected by the time the tool comes out as a finished version at the JavaOne Conference June 28.

"The thing they have going for them is there is a very large group of Visual Studio/Visual Basic developers worldwide," Dana Gardner, senior analyst for the Yankee Group, told internetnews.com. "So there are a large amount of people they might be able to attract and say, 'you have a skill set that you've developed, and we're giving you a segue to use that same skill set and deploy it with a much larger group of runtimes."

That portability, what Sun corporate developer tools group product market manager Jim Inscore calls "Build Once, Deploy Anywhere" (an expansion on Java's "Write Once, Run Anywhere" motto), is what officials hope will help bring millions of new programmers to the Java fold. At last year's JavaOne Conference, Rich Green, Sun's vice president of Sun developer tools and Java software, said 10 million is Sun's ultimate goal for Java adoption around the world.

"Now, how much of that is Creator going to contribute, going from three million to 10 million Java developers, that's kind of an open question," he told internetnews.com. "We know there are between three to five million developers using proprietary tools that are the market for Sun Java Studio Creator, and those are the numbers we are looking at longer-term."

It's a lofty goal. Ultimate success, however, will depend less than what developers think of the tool than how Sun decides to use the new software tool. Gardner said the company would have to garner appeal for JSC as a tool for the entire Java community, not one for just Sun. The April 8 download includes a Java Enterprise System (JES) runtime with Java 2, Standard Edition (J2SE) software development kit (SDK).

It would seem the combo locks users into Sun's commercial-grade JES runtime, since it comes with a J2SE SDK, rather than a Java 2, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.4 SDK, which is used for many infrastructure applications. J2SE is used mainly for presentation-layer applications, not back-end enterprise functions.

"So that might be where the dual benefit, from Sun's perspective, and it will be interesting to see whether developers say, 'hey, I'm getting this commercial-grade runtime, I might as well use it,' or they say 'gee, I don't want to be locked into one particular implementation,'" Gardner said. "It also depends where a developer is employed, whether they're working for an enterprise that has a runtime established or with an [independent software vendor] who is going to want to give as many portability options as possible.

"The question is, when do we go from a J2SE to a J2EE and what will that mean for deployments at this time?" he continued.

Dan Roberts, JSC senior product manager, said Sun's goal from the beginning has been for tool portability. He said J2SE was included only so that developers who downloaded JSC for testing wouldn't have to also download the SDK somewhere else.

The only requirements, he said, is that Java Server Faces (JSF), a recently approved standard, requires Java Server Pages (JSP) 1.2 or 2.0, which means JSC can run on any application server of J2EE 1.3 or 1.4 level.

"That was one of the core feature sets or requirements in the creation of the product [JSC] from the very beginning, that the applications built on this tool are not proprietary, not based on any proprietary language extensions, runtimes or frameworks," he told internetnews.com.