Sun Intros NetBeans 5.5, Partner Program

Sun Microsystems today released NetBeans 5.5, an update to its Integrated Development Environment (IDE) featuring full support for Java EE 5, the newest version of its enterprise Java platform.

In addition to the Java EE support, NetBeans 5.5 contains new features like the Java Persistence API and JAX WS 2.0 productivity tools, Subversion support, and enhancements to the NetBeans GUI Builder.

Along with the new IDE, Sun  announced five add-on packs for NetBeans 5.5 designed to offer specific functionality for development projects. They are NetBeans Enterprise Pack, NetBeans Mobility Pack, NetBeans Profiler 5.5 Pack, NetBeans Visual Web Pack and NetBeans C/C++ Pack.

Sun also announced it is expanding its NetBeans Partner Program for companies that are building add-ons to NetBeans and recommending the IDE to their developer communities.

The expanded initiative provides incentives for members that have shown full support for NetBeans and meet the business and technical requirements for invitation to the program.

Partners will receive technical support from Sun engineers, exclusive roadmap and planning briefings with the NetBeans team and joint marketing opportunities.

Sun has long supported its third-party developers, often bundling software with its hardware even back in the pre-Java days. Dan Roberts, director of developer tools marketing, acknowledged the NetBeans program is not new but an extension of Sun strategy that has worked.

“As we started the NetBeans community several years ago, we knew we needed to grow the community to a larger size to attract the interest of larger ISVs  out there. That’s why we started working on projects like SOA  Web services and mobility,” he said.

With NetBeans 5.5 focused on bringing the IDE up to date with Java EE 5, it’s the value-added packs that offer many new features. The Enterprise Pack adds tools for building, testing, and debugging service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications using XML, BPEL, and Java web services.

The Mobility Pack 5.5 adds support for Scalable Vector Graphics in Java ME applications, while the Profiler 5.5 adds support for several new runtime environments and makes it easier to profile the properties of Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs).

The Visual Web Pack is designed for building Web applications, with emphasis on Ajax-enabled JavaServer Faces components. Finally, the C/C++ Pack makes it possible for C/C++ developers to use the NetBeans IDE.

Jeffery Hammond, senior analyst with Forrester Research, said NetBeans is holding up well against its competition on both fronts, against both open source and high-end development tools.

“This is a good step for them,” he said. “If you look at the market, you could classify people’s options in 2 categories: good, high-quality free offerings like Eclipse, and very expensive tools that are feature packed,” such as tools from Rational and Borland.

“What they’ve done with the add-in packs is put a wedge in the market, with an enterprise-class solution that’s not commonly-found in the open source market,” said Hammond.

NetBeans 5.5 and three of the add-in packs are available now for free download from Sun. The Visual Web pack and C/C++ packs are still in beta, for release later this year.

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