Finding their niches

While long-time Windows tools powerhouses must adjust to the onslaught of Java, so must high-end makers of specialized Unix tools. For example, Paris-based ILOG Inc., has positioned its ILOG JViews 2D Java graphics library to work with the Java products from the graphics library to work with the Java products from Sybase, Symantec, Borland, Microsoft and Sun.

"Developers can take this library, make it a JavaBean and use it just like it was another object," explained JViews product manager Ed Kiraly.

The product builds on its C++ library cousin, Views, allowing Views developers to use Java to build GUIs. Written in Java, JViews is a pure Java library of graphical object, behaviors and data structures in an open architecture that works with existing Java GUI builders and standard Web browsers.

Fiberlane Communications, a startup company developing communications equipment, purchased JViews to aid in the development of its network management application. "All of our network management development is in Java," explained Alnoor Shivji, director of networking software and general manager for network management at Fiberlane's Vancouver, B.C., office.

"This helps us in developing a GUI for the management products."

Shivji chose JViews for its commercial value -- support and service he could count on -- and because time to market is important. "JViews would help in allowing us to develop a user interface much more quickly," he said. Fiberlane considered other 2D graphical library products, but none was commercialized, Shivji said.

Though pleased with the product, Shivji admits it is not as robust as the company's Views product, which has been around much longer. For instance, an icon editor was not available with Java, so ILOG forwarded him an icon editor from Views, "which was not sufficient," he said. But Shivji believes glitches like these will take care of themselves as the product matures.

ILOG JViews run on any Java platform and any Web browser that supports JDK 1.1. Prices start at $6,500 for a single developer license. "From a licensing point of view, I thought the price was a little high," Shivji said, but that didn't stop him from buying the product.

A similar product is available from Imperial Software Technology, headquartered in Reading, England. Visaj, also written in Java, lets developers working with multiple hardware platforms use a single application builder to build cross-platform Java

The product features the same interface from IST's X-Designer Motif-to-Java GUI builder to attract those developers. It comes with a visual class editor, layout editors for AWT, an event Editor and a resource bundle editor. In addition, it includes support for JDK 1.1 and JavaBeans. It is priced at $995.

Where do these tools fit into the Java tools market? "It's a very crowded market," noted Evan Quinn, director of Java research for International Data Corp., Mountain View, Calif. "If you don't already have a name in the tools arena, it's really difficult to make a lot of progress.

"When you start talking about GUI building and component generation tools," he continued, "I think those folks face a little bit of a challenge." That challenge is to find their niche in the Java tools market. "They have to ride the transition from C++ to Java," Quinn said. "They need to find the niches who care, and it's not clear yet how big those niches are."

-- Lana Gates

About the Author

Lana Gates is a freelance writer based in Mesa, Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].