Sun to Bolster Development Tools

Firm readying tools to help less sophisticated developers build enterprise-class Java apps.

Word of Sun Microsystems Inc. trying to take on Microsoft Corp. in its own development tools back yard first leaked in March, and now the Java company is shedding more light on the matter as its JavaOne developer conference approaches next month.

"We think we should go where the developers are sitting," Rich Green, vice president of Java software development at Sun told eWEEK more than two months ago. "By midyear at JavaOne, we will have a new set of tools targeting these platforms. We are working on tools that the historic visual developers will find very attractive. They will be all written in Java."

Meanwhile, this week, in a conference call with reporters, Green played up the theme of simplifying Java development, saying that at JavaOne, Sun will release new tools that help less sophisticated developers build enterprise-class Java applications.

"Java has done exceedingly well with high-scaled applications built by high-skilled developers," Green said. Yet, a "big new piece for Sun is the acknowledgement that there is a key group of people with skill levels being modest…" Green said.

As eWEEK first reported in March, Sun is targeting Microsoft. On Wednesdays call, Green said the area of the market Sun is targeting "is being led and fed by [Microsofts] Visual Basic."

As for this group, which Green called corporate developers, "both Sun and the Java community has ignored the population of individuals that live in this space."

Yet, Java is not too complex a language or platform, both Green and James Gosling, a Sun fellow and vice president of Sun Labs, who also was on the call, said. "For the masses, Java can be as viable as any other platform," Green said.

Meanwhile, Ingrid Van Den Hoogen, a director of strategy in Suns software group, said part of Suns message at JavaOne will be to build the community. "Were looking to grow the developer base," she said. "Were setting our sights on 3 to 5 million developers, maybe 10 million in the future."

Research company Gartner Inc., of Stamford, Conn., reports that there are about 1.5 to 2 million full-time professional Java developers today versus 3 million Visual Basic developers.

Meanwhile, back in March and April, more details came to light, around some of the Java Specification Requests (JSRs) Sun and the Java Community Process were working on to simplify Java. Broadening the reach and appeal of Java is at the top of Suns list for the next major release of the platform, code-named Tiger, next year.

The central JSRs, 201 and 175, now in the hands of the Java Community Process, address ease of use. JSR 201 comprises a new set of productivity-enhancing programming features for Java. JSR 175 is a metadata facility for Java programming that allows developers to annotate programs and limit the amount of code they need to write.

Joshua Bloch, a Sun engineer who heads both specifications, said much of the programming functionality of the Java language "has been the same since Version 1.1."