Dynamics of the Tool

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-07-15 Print this article Print

Market"> Why do you think Suns development tools never commanded a greater share of the market? Well, were on our track to getting there. You look at the adoption curves and were doing pretty well.
But the dynamics of the tool market are that ever since Microsoft introduced Visual Studio and dropped the price to essentially zero, its pretty much impossible for any company to sell tools for any price that comes close to covering their costs.
And that sort of turned the tools world into one where the only people who could produce tools were people who had sort of an indirect business model. Microsofts business model around tools is all about developer lock-in to their platform. So everybody in the Java tools world was on the one hand building really nice tools and people were liking them, but they had to cut their prices to … Well, it didnt matter how popular you were, when youre selling things for negative margin and making it up on volume it doesnt work. And we had had a few tools efforts that we sort of shut down. We decided we really needed to support the tool world so we bought this really little company in Prague called NetBeans, and we sort of left them alone for a while and they were kind of struggling. And then starting a couple of years ago we decided we had to really push on them and help them out. They were a bunch of fairly academically oriented folks who were doing really interesting things from an academic point of view, but getting the engineering right was something they needed help with. So we spent a lot of time working with them. Was that in response to Eclipse? Well, sort of yes and no. NetBeans was open-sourced about a year before Eclipse was announced, and we had been putting a fair amount of energy into NetBeans anyway. But then when Eclipse happened … It was another interesting sort of IBM product, so we figured we couldnt fool around anymore and we needed to really put the pedal to the metal and make the thing scream. And right now, the current FCS [First Customer Shipment] release of NetBeans 4.1 is actually really excellent. Well, I know this has been bandied about, but do you think therell ever be any cooperation between Eclipse and NetBeans at some level? Eh, at some level maybe. Its really hard to tell. The architectures at the core of both of them are different enough that its really, really hard to line things up. Were certainly achieving a fair amount of interoperability. Weve got pretty good import filters; we both handle similar kinds of data objects like Ant scripts and such. Weve put a huge amount more effort into the specialized development areas like J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] and J2ME [Java 2 Micro Edition, now known simply as Java ME], and a lot of interesting stuff in the cell phone world. Its hard to know. Have you played with Eclipse at all? Oh, Ive played with Eclipse a few times. Impressions? Its sure gotten slow. And the whole SWT thing is just too silly for words. Next Page: Losing years to lawsuits.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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