Suns Tooling Strategy to Focus More on Scripting

NetBeans 6.0 will provide deep support for scripting languages.

SAN FRANCISCO—As NetBeans goes so goes Sun Microsystems. And with that being the case, Sun is moving toward broader support for scripting languages.

That is the message Suns President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz gave at the JavaOne conference here May 16.

Schwartz said the health of Sun can be tied to the health of the companys development tools. And Suns development tools are all based on the NetBeans open-source Java development environment.

Asked about the ongoing financial viability of Sun, Schwartz said, "If you want to know what the best leading indicator of the health of Sun Microsystems is, its the attendance at this conference and the health of our developer tools."

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With that in mind, Suns NetBeans is headed toward greater support for scripting languages, the company said.

"The focus for NetBeans 6.0 will be on adding support for a bunch of scripting languages," said Tim Cramer, Suns senior director of Java tools. Indeed, "well have JavaScript support that will come out as a plug-in," he said. And NetBeans 6.0 will use some of the technologies in Java Standard Edition 6.0, also known as Mustang, which features enhanced support for scripting languages.

"Were working on the IDE [integrated development environment] to make it easier to add scripting languages now," Cramer said.

Sun had some rudimentary support for scripting languages in its Coyote project, but that effort had been going somewhat slow, Cramer said. However, the founders of the Groovy project recently joined NetBeans, he said. Coyote primarily supported Groovy and Jython.

Cramer said there are now more than 100 partners in the NetBeans community, and the ecosystem continues to grow.

"Were building an IDE thats really competitive," he said. "There is a grass-roots effort to get people to try it."

And usage has grown. Cramer said reports to the NetBeans update center have grown by six times in two years. In addition, JBoss and Advanced Micro Devices are new members of the NetBeans community.

"Were hitting the tipping point," Cramer said. "JBoss joined our Java EE [Enterprise Edition] community, and theyre going to be working on the application server plug-in. Youll end up seeing a JBoss/NetBeans bundle and a Java EE 5 plug-in for Glassfish."

Meanwhile, Cramer said Sun also has a project showing Microsofts Visual Basic in NetBeans, where a developer can take a Visual Basic application, read it into NetBeans and run it.

Rich Green, Suns executive vice president of software at Sun, who was instrumental in pushing both NetBeans and Java Studio Creator, said open-sourcing Java could be a boon to NetBeans.

"NetBeans is an enabler to the open source," Green said. "And open-sourcing Java will grow the market for NetBeans."

Meanwhile, as NetBeans gears up for additional support for scripting languages, the competing Eclipse platform also is working to garner more support for scripting languages.

/zimages/2/28571.gifeWEEK Labs reviews NetBeans 5.0. Click here to read more.

Yet, despite Eclipse having enjoyed a big momentum swing over the last year or two, "our growth rate is much better" right now, Green said.

Marc Fleury, chief executive of JBoss, which was recently acquired by Red Hat, appeared on the stage at JavaOne wearing a red beret and pledging his support for NetBeans. "We like freedom of choice," Fleury said.

However, he admitted, "I was not interested in the fight between Eclipse and NetBeans because Sun didnt seem serious about NetBeans. Then when I met Jonathan Schwartz, I realized Sun really stands behind NetBeans."

That commitment made an impression with Fleury.

"At the end of the day were not religious about the IDEs," he said. "They are doing some innovative things with NetBeans. We dont care about a war. Were happy to see both platforms continue to innovate."

Gavin King, a JBoss developer and founder of the Hibernate object/relational mapping project, said he welcomes both NetBeans and Eclipse developers into the fold.

"I want you to build applications using [Java Studio] Creator for JBoss," King said.

Tim Bray, director of Web technologies at Sun, said of scripting language support: "This is tremendously early days, and this is an emerging ecosystem."

Meanwhile, NetBeans 6.0 is not expected until 2007, perhaps around the JavaOne time frame, Cramer said.

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