Oracle Widens Web Reach

9i JDeveloper goes to beta, extends company's wares in Java development technology, services

The 9i version of Oracle Corp.s JDeveloper application takes aim at Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp., expanding the software companys offerings in Java development technology and Web services.

The Redwood Shores, Calif., company last week launched a beta version of the product, which Oracle officials said will compete with Suns Forte for Java technology and Microsofts Visual Studio .Net. The software, which is the main part of Oracles development series, improves upon the existing 3.2 JDeveloper by running on any Windows NT-based or Unix-derived operating system.

The new version is due for general availability later this year.

Developers expressed mixed feelings about the software. Among them is Steve Buikhuizen, vice president of technology development at Xpiron Inc., a San Francisco-based maker of scheduling and data analysis software. JDeveloper has many useful features, Buikhuizen said, although he hasnt tested it yet.

"It sounds like it could save us a lot of work," he said. "I will definitely be taking a look at it. The other reason its very attractive is that were starting to get very heavy into the use of XML [Extensible Markup Language]."

But, he added, an Oracle sales demonstration of 3.2 was "weak," which may dampen his enthusiasm for 9i JDeveloper.

"I just lost interest" in the 3.2 demonstration, Buikhuizen said. "I didnt have the time to go teach myself."

The final buying decision for the startup may come down to the price, he said. Oracle products historically have run at higher prices than their competitors prices.

But Graham Jones, vice president of development at NDS Systems LC, an independent software vendor in Clearwater, Fla., said he is not concerned about price. Jones, who has been working with Oracle for 16 years, said the new version is one of Oracles best tools yet. "The new tools great. Its got the Java look and feel, so its a little bit different to operate than the old one. But its more stable" and features long-awaited source control, he said.

JDeveloper is built in Java, with no remaining C code. Oracle executives said its better than 3.2 because it supports XML, Web services and Suns J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition), along with Unified Modeling Language and a new Code Coach option.

In addition, applications built with JDeveloper can run on any database, even Microsofts SQL Server and IBMs DB2, and they can be tested using Oracles online service.

Other new features include the ability to track memory leaks and deadlocks, wizard templates, and team development support, officials said.

The beta is available by free download to the approximately 1.7 million members of the Oracle Technology Network. Pricing has not yet been set.