February 5, 2004 12:19 PM PST

Sun's Tiger aims to tame Java programming

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Sun Microsystems has released an early edition of software that will form the underpinnings of future Java applications for desktop computers.

The company on Wednesday released the first beta version of the Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition (J2SE) 1.5 software, which includes a series of enhancements to the Java programming language and the software used to run Java applications. And on Thursday, Sun announced the beta program for J2SE 1.5, code-named Tiger.

J2SE is a specification that outlines how Java providers should write their software, notably development tools, to incorporate the latest features. The Tiger release of J2SE is targeted for completion this summer.


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Java licensees, such as Sun and Borland Software, usually take several months to add the latest features to their products.

Sun aims to release this summer a version 4.0 update of its NetBeans open-source development tools that will incorporate the enhancements of the Java platform update, said James Gosling, chief technology officer of Sun's developer tools division. Other Java tools companies are expected to add the changes in their respective products, as will PC manufacturers that ship Java Runtime Environment, software that's needed to execute Java code.

The J2SE software, which usually runs on desktop PCs, forms the basis of the Java 2 Enterprise Edition standard for server-side Java applications. The Java 2 Micro Edition specification addresses Java software that's embedded in cell phones and other handheld devices.

A primary goal of the new Java specification is to simplify programming done with the Java language, according to Sun. Tiger includes changes designed to cut down on the amount of code programmers need to write and to ease the process of deploying applications.

One feature allows a programmer to add information, called metadata, to bodies of code. Once implemented in products, this will enable developers to eliminate repetitive tasks and help in the debugging and deployment process, according to Sun.

Tiger is also intended to make Java applications easier to monitor and manage, once they are operating and perform better. The software for running Java programs on desktop PCs is being revamped as well to make Java programs run faster and use less PC memory, including on Linux desktop machines.

"Over the past year, other desktop (operating systems)--the Mac and Linux--have been rising in importance. I wouldn't say they are anyway near threatening Microsoft's monopoly, but they are gathering developer mindshare," said Gosling.

Ease of development and deployment is a critical goal for Sun and other Java software providers. Java tools and deployment software, though widely used, are generally considered more complex and harder to learn than comparative tools from Microsoft.

In addition to efforts to simplify the Java language, Java tool providers are each investing in simpler tools, or integrated development environments, to make Java programmers more productive. Sun, for instance, in the middle of the year is planning to release Java Creator, a tool aimed at Microsoft Visual Basic programmers who favor a drag-and-drop method for building applications.

Sun made the announcement of the Tiger beta program the same week of EclipseCon, a conference dedicated to the open-source development tools platform Eclipse. Although Eclipse software incorporates Java software standards, Sun has been wary of its growing influence in the industry and has urged the group not to fracture the Java industry.

 

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