Sun readies NetBeans boost

The NetBeans open source platform championed by Sun Microsystems has less industry support than rival Eclipse, which enjoys the backing of vendors such as IBM and Oracle. But Sun late last month launched an effort to boost NetBeans and is seeking new endorsements.

NetBeans currently has the backing of about 125 partners, up from about 30 to 50 partners a year ago, but discussions are ongoing with a variety of potential new adopters, said Dan Roberts, director of marketing for developer tools at Sun. The Eclipse Foundation lists 144 member companies but has greater support from high-profile vendors.

“We’re actively engaged with a wide variety of folks,” ranging from mobile carriers and application lifecycle management vendors to handset manufacturers, Roberts said. “We’re covering the complete gamut.”

But Sun should focus on quality rather than quantity, an analyst said. “I think that the key to Sun’s success here is less about number and more about the quality and usefulness of the partner offerings they can attract,” said Jeffrey Hammond, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

“There is a group of commercial plug-in providers to Eclipse who look at the user base as a fertile ground to developing their own markets. If Sun can convince these providers that the NetBeans user base is large enough and is a potentially profitable market segment, then they will be able to succeed in building an effective ecosystem,” Hammond said.

Concurrent with the release of the NetBeans 5.5 IDE, Sun and the NetBeans community also unveiled an expansion of the NetBeans Partner Program for companies building add-ons to NetBeans and recommending the IDE to developers.

An expanded offering called the NetBeans Strategic Partner Program features new marketing, benefits, technical support and incentives. Business partners demonstrating full support for the IDE and who have met business and technical requirements can receive technical support as well as road map and planning briefings from the NetBeans team. Co-marketing opportunities with the Sun developer community are also part of the program.

Partners can participate in NetBeans developer events, including NetBeans Day, as well as Webinars. They also receive promotion on Sun and NetBeans Web properties such as These partners will be identified by a special logo.

NetBeans 5.5, which was previewed by Sun last month, will feature support for Java Enterprise Edition 5.5. New features include the Java Persistence API, for database persistence; JAX WS (Java API for XML Web Services) 2.0 productivity tools, Subversion version control support, and enhancements to the NetBeans GUI Builder. The GUI builder had been known as Project Matisse.

With the release of NetBeans 5.5, Sun will offer five value-added technology packs. These include: Enterprise Pack, for building SOA applications; Mobility Pack, for building applications for mobile devices; Profiler 5.5 Pack, for profiling Enterprise JavaBeans; Visual Web Pack, for Web development; and C/++ Pack, which adds C and C++ support to NetBeans. The technology packs will be offered free of charge.

NetBeans 5.5 provides a common look and feel for applications on the Solaris, OpenSolaris, Linux, Windows and Macintosh OS X platforms. It also supports the Standard, Enterprise and Micro editions of Java.

In separate Sun news, the company is set to announce the open-sourcing of the core Java platform within 30 to 60 days, Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz said at the Oracle OpenWorld conference last month.

The core platform encompasses the Standard Edition of Java, and it will be offered via an open source format under an OSI (Open Source Initiative)-approved license, likely the same one used for Sun’s open source Solaris OS. Sun officials, including Rich Green, Sun executive vice-president for software, have talked about Java being offered via open source in stages later this year and into 2007. Parts of it, such as the Java Enterprise Edition, already are available via open source, with the GlassFish application server constituting the open source enterprise variant.

Sun officials said in May, that Java would be made open source. But they did not provide a specific time frame.

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