Sun still pondering Eclipse move

Sun Microsystems Inc. is pondering joining the Eclipse open source development tools project for Java led by IBM Corp., but still has some concerns, a Sun official said recently.

The company believes it is good to have communities of Java developers, thus it may be a good idea to join, said Joe Keller, vice-president of Java Web Service & Tools Marketing at Sun.

“The invitation came to us from the Eclipse group. We’re still considering it. We’re still waiting for them to figure out what the invitation really looks like for us,” Keller said.

“What we would explore (are) the ways we would address the issues,” such as having a unified plug-in standard for plugging in tools into different Java development environments, Keller said.

“That would be our agenda in joining Eclipse, to be part of that community (and) make sure they pursue Java standards in the right way and look at how we as the Java community can serve developers better,” said Keller.

Sun would not abandon the development core of its NetBeans initiative for open source development should the company join Eclipse, Keller said. Some 1.6 million copies of NetBeans have been released to developers.

An official with Eclipse, reiterated that Sun is welcome to join and that the organization would even consider a name change. Sun considers the name, Eclipse, to be a direct attack on Sun, Keller said.

“It’s been open (for Sun to join) for 18 months to two years,” said Skip McGaughey, chairperson of Eclipse and an IBM employee. He denied that the Eclipse name was intended to be anti-Sun.

Keller also reiterated Sun’s plans to make a Java development tool that would make it easier to program in the language. Eyeing Visual Basic-style development, Sun’s Project Rave tool is due in a preview release in about two weeks, with a beta due in 2004 and general release planned for mid-2004.

“The rap on Java has been that it’s too hard for folks and that’s fundamentally a recognition that no one’s built the right kind of tool,” Keller said.

Acknowledging Sun has only captured a small percentage of the marketplace in development tools, Keller said Sun hopes to boost its fortunes in tools by tailoring functionality in the Sun Java Studio tool to work with Sun’s Java Enterprise System. Run times for Java Enterprise System will be included inside the tool. Formerly known as Project Orion, Java Enterprise System features software for functions such as identity management, directory, Web server, and portal server. It is set to ship at the end of the month.

“We’ve made a concerted effort to connect this toolset to the Java Enterprise System,” Keller said.

Sun, however, does not build tools in hopes of making a lot of money off of them. The company hopes to seed the market for Java and leverage applications to boost Sun software and hardware system sales, Keller said.

“Do we build a business to extract maximum profit from revenue derived from developers? No, that’s not the goal of these programs,” said Keller.

Keller also said he expects a draft specification of JSR (Java Specification Request) 208, to be ready from the JSR 208 expert group next July. JSR 208 is intended to boost Java application integration via Web services through standardized mechanisms.