Sun Microsystems will use its third annual NetBeans Day May 15—the day before the official opening of the companys annual JavaOne conference—to showcase the significant growth of its open-source Java application development platform.
To help do that, Sun will have key partners discuss how NetBeans has worked for their organizations. In addition, Sun plans to announce at the event new supporters as the company works to grow the NetBeans ecosystem.
In terms of ecosystem, Sun faces an uphill battle for ISV support for NetBeans when compared with the competing Eclipse open-source Java application development environment. Eclipse has the support of IBM, which initiated the effort, as well as a host of other companies including Actuate, BEA Systems, Borland Software, Compuware, Intel, IONA Technologies and Oracle.
Dan Roberts, Suns director of developer tools marketing, said his companys focus is on “winning back the developer and the partners, and the ecosystem will follow. So were focused on innovation entirely around the core platform and the IDE [integrated development environment].”
Roberts said attendance for the full-day NetBeans Day event is up over last year, and there has been “double-digit growth” in the number of developers using NetBeans over the last several years, he said.
“This year is about a lot of our users and partners coming back,” Roberts said. “The news of NetBeans demise was greatly exaggerated.”
Suns development tools are based on NetBeans, according to Roberts. Both the Java 5 Standard Edition, code-named Tiger, and the Java 5 Enterprise Edition are based on NetBeans.
“The momentum behind NetBeans accelerated in 2005,” said Gregg Sporar, a developer and technical evangelist at Sun. The latest numbers from Evans Data show that the NetBeans IDE (and the IDEs built on it) holds 31 percent of the Java developer market. In addition, more than 33 percent of all downloads of the NetBeans IDE since it was open-sourced in June 2000 happened during 2005 alone, he said.
Meanwhile, Roberts said he believes “one of the reasons NetBeans has gotten so good is because of Eclipse. … Some people say its like VHS versus Betamax, but we see it more like Coke versus Pepsi.”
Moreover, said Roberts, “as you look at the market consolidation, there are two groups that are really growing—its us and Eclipse. … But at the end of the day the competition is really not each other, but Microsoft. As long as we keep that healthy competition going and continue to innovate, well see that Java ecosystem grow.”
Two Sun partners who will be present at NetBeans Day and during JavaOne to show their support for the NetBeans platform are Ricoh and Sprint.
“Ricoh needed an IDE, and wed been doing a lot of work with them to ensure that their developers have a productive environment,” Roberts said.
Meanwhile, Sprint “is a classic example of a carrier who wants to deliver content to phones, and they know if they can get more compelling applications on their phones they can create more revenue,” Roberts said. “NetBeans is helping them create more compelling apps.”
Nathan Smith, group manager of developer tools and education, and director of the Sprint Application Developer Program, said there are 100,000 registered developers in the Sprint developer program.
“My job is to promote wireless development,” said Smith, who will be a speaker at NetBeans Day and is slated to participate in a keynote during JavaOne.
“Were trying to get to faster and faster innovation, and Java is the primary application platform we have,” he said.
In the Java Mobile Edition space, Smith said, “there arent a lot of development tools.”
However, “NetBeans has a lot of nice features and helpful things like the first implementation of a drag-and-drop environment for mobile development,” Smith said.
Sprint has 60 Java handsets, “and with NetBeans you can write your source code once but customize it to run on different devices,” Smith said. “A lot of developers have to take their code and rewrite it for every device. If you have 60 developers, thats a lot of work.”
Smith said Sprint has customized NetBeans into the Sprint Mobility IDE.
“In the mobile space, Sun has the best tools out there,” he said.
Greg Anderson, senior engineering manager in the Cupertino Engineering Group at Ricoh, said, “We started with Eclipse because it had the most exposure, but Sun encouraged us to explore their solution, and we discovered that off-the-shelf NetBeans was easier to configure and use.”
Anderson also will be a speaker at NetBeans Day.
In addition, Sun showed Ricoh “an example of a custom-branded edition of NetBeans used by Vodafone,” Anderson said.
So Sun and Ricoh began working on a similar NetBeans-based development environment for Ricoh, “for building new Ricoh applications. It brings up a template for starting to develop an application, and it knows all the special things like which compiler conformance level to use, and it has all the Java documents integrated,” Anderson said.
In addition, the NetBeans-based system “has all the custom Ricoh APIs,” he said. “Its a nice integrated development experience.”
Anderson said Ricoh had been using Eclipse, but the companys developers are moving to NetBeans for its embedded development.
At the companys recent developer conference there was a session on debugging Eclipse, “but it was very lightly attended,” he said.
“I doubt well even have Eclipse a year from now,” Anderson said.