December 3, 2003 5:51 AM PST

Sun tinkers with its programming tools

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Sun Microsystems is seeking to build momentum in its programming tools business with updates to its different products.

At a quarterly customer conference on Wednesday, the company announced a number of enhancements to its existing Java programming tools and also disclosed the name of its forthcoming tool, formerly called Project Rave. The new name is expected to be Java Studio Creator.

Sun is developing the new tool in an attempt to lure corporate application developers familiar with graphical programming tools, notably Microsoft's Visual Basic. A "technology preview" of Java Studio Creator, which is designed to quickly assemble relatively simple Web applications, will be available to developers through an early access program starting Wednesday.

A formal testing, or beta, program for Java Studio Creator is set to begin in the first few months of next year, with final delivery of the product slated for the middle of 2004, said Joe Keller, Sun's vice president of marketing for Java Web services and tools.

The Sun-sponsored NetBeans open-source project is also planning changes to the NetBeans toolset, which Sun uses as the basis for other commercial tool products. NetBeans version 3.6, which is targeted for release early next year, will add improvements to the user interface and the tool's performance, Keller said.

"We've been getting some great feedback on the improvements in the user interface, the speed of the infrastructure and other capabilities," Keller said. "Some developers are saying that this would swing them from (IBM-sponsored open-source project) Eclipse back to NetBeans."

Sun has also bundled an existing tool into Java Studio, which is generally aimed at skilled Java developers who build more complex, larger-scale applications. Sun will include an "application framework," which is a set of prewritten software components and tools, with the standard edition of Java Studio, which costs $695. Sun previously charged $1,500 for the application framework.


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