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Sun Java Rave tool targets 'corporate' programmers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Sun Microsystems built the Java brand by targeting the top coders in the developer ranks. Now the company, in an effort to expand Java's reach, is set to reach out to the broader corporate developer ranks.

In making this move, formally announced at the company's showcase JavaOne show, Sun takes a cue from BEA, IBM and others that have launched easier-to-use Java IDEs that encapsulate often-performed developer tasks to achieve a rapid application development environment.

Sun's new software targets developers whose work primarily involves application assembly and scripting, rather than hard-core coding, with a new development environment that emphasizes ease of use and "visual constructions." Code-named Project Rave, the new tool is being designed to appeal to what Sun calls a "mainstream corporate audience" of developers who do not currently use Java, but would if simpler development tools were available.

"Rave is designed for developers who build applications of medium complexity and whose expertise tends to be in the business, but not so much in computer science," said Richard Green, Sun's vice president of development tools.

"It's a market that has been defined historically by Visual Basic, and it actually constitutes between 60% to 80% of commercial software development. It's by far the dominant style of development," Green said. "This class of developer is under a lot of pressure in corporate environments to crank out two-tier applications, Web-based applications and database-driven applications quickly. We're going to minimize the amount or source code they have to hack and maximize their productivity."

Green introduced Project Rave during his keynote address at the JavaOne 2003 developer conference in San Francisco. Rave, which Sun is planning to release this fall, will include drag-and-drop layout of user interfaces and component infrastructures; a simplified event-based coding model based on JavaServer Faces; simplified access to databases via JDBC Rowsets; and reduced code complexity and simplified application deployment as a result of new meta data features in the J2SE 1.5 platform.

Sun expects Rave's simplicity and ease-of-use to lure at least 7 million more developers to the Java camp over the next 10 years, Green maintained.

"Tools have always been critical to Sun," Green said. "Tools are the thin edge of the wedge. You need developers to build applications, and developers need tools. In a way, it's about nurturing an ecosystem. Without tools, the ecosystem decays. We are very anxious, in the shadow of the success of Java, to get more developers to build more things to grow this ecosystem faster."

Ease of use was a definite theme of Sun's announcements at this year's show. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company unveiled planned enhancements to the Java language designed to make Java technology easier to use and to broaden its reach into new developer markets. In addition, J2SE Version 1.5 will include support for meta data, generics and enumerated types, as well as additional XML standards, third-party scripting languages and new monitoring features to help manage Java technology-enabled resources. J2EE 1.5 will include new specifications for JAX-RPC (2.0), EJB (3.0), JDBC (4.0), JAXB (2.0) and JavaServer Faces.

"We're convinced at Sun that it all starts with developers and the applications they create," Green said. "We're being very aggressive now in supporting and driving that market forward. Rave is a good example of that."

Pricing details for the Rave development environment were not available at press time, but Green said the tool would be priced competitively. "I'd like people to know that this is designed as a high-volume, end-customer, buy-it-with-a-credit-card-type of product," he said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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