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Update: Sun opts out of Eclipse - Updates NetBeans

Sun Microsystems has declined to join Eclipse.org, Joe Keller, VP of marketing for Java Web services and development platforms at Sun, said last week in a statement. ''Since a common ground that would allow an equitable share in mutual development could not be found,'' Keller added, ''Sun will not pursue hybrid options such as merging NetBeans.org with Eclipse.org.'' The announcement came at the same time the Eclipse.org group was meeting in Dallas.

Sun cited technical and organizational differences over the use of its own open-source IDE framework, NetBeans, among its reasons for opting out of the Eclipse project. Sun and Eclipse held considerable ''good-will'' discussions on the matter, Keller said, and ''... Sun's decision was not made lightly.''

According to Skip McGaughey, chairperson ofEclipse.org, the Eclipse board unanimously invited Sun to join 20 months ago. Sun, he indicated, has been working with the group for the past nine months, pursuing détente at several levels. McGaughey said the invitation to join Eclipse board remains open.

Eclipse is an open-source tool framework, developed by a community of contributors and distributed under a common public license, that provides royalty-free source code and worldwide redistribution rights.

The first Eclipse board was formed in 2001 by a group of technology companies that included IBM, Borland, Merant, QNX Software Systems, Rational Software, Red Hat, SuSE, TogetherSoft and Webgain. That board now also counts among its members Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, SAP, Sybase, Fujitsu, Hitachi, MontaVista and Parasoft, among others; the Object Management Group (OMG) is an associate member.

All of the so-called steward companies have made a commitment to releasing Eclipse-compatible offerings and to supporting the community of users, researchers and developers this will foster, according to Eclipse.org.

Sun's decision probably won't slow the progress of the project, McGaughey said, nor will it sour Eclipse.org on Sun itself. ''The developers and engineers are demanding tools that integrate and interoperate, and we will continue to work with Sun and others to provide technology that meets this most important requirement for an open platform for tool integration and interoperability,'' he said. ''The Eclipse community has a great respect for the Sun Java leadership and technology. We will continue to work with them.''

Meanwhile, Sun will continue to work with industry partners to attempt to ''achieve alignment and interoperability in the Java Tools market,'' the Santa Clara, Calif.-based systems company said, but the focus of those efforts will be its own open-source tools platform. Sun acquired NetBeans in 1999 and re-branded it under the Forte name (Sun had acquired Forte earlier that same year). The company claims NetBeans 3.5.1 is downloaded on average 12,500 times per day.

Shortly after making the Eclipse announcement, Sun unveiled the latest roadmap for the NetBeans Application Framework (NetBeans platform), which details the path to Version 4.0 of the product. NetBeans 4.0, which Sun hopes to release in the second half of 2004, is expected to include automated ''refactoring'' support to provide improved code maintenance, and code editor features such as ''Smart Imports'' and improved ''Code Completion'' capabilities. The release will also include a new, highly configurable build system to allow for the creation of more complex applications, the company said.

According to Jeff Anders, group marketing manager for Sun's developer platform group, Sun's decision not to join the Eclipse board was the result not of unresolved technical issues, as some have speculated, but rather business differences. The details of those differences remain confidential, Anders said.

''I can say that both parties were working in good faith,'' Anders told Programmers Report , ''and I do believe that Sun would have joined [Eclipse.org] if we could have resolved the business issues.''

The purpose of the roadmap announcement, Anders said, was to reassure NetBeans developers by re-stating Sun's commitment to the open-source IDE.

''We felt that it was our responsibility to reassure our developer community that we are, in fact, still committed to NetBeans, and that we're moving forward with it,'' he said. ''People knew that there were discussions going on between Sun and Eclipse, and the NetBeans community was a little nervous about what that might ultimately mean for them. We thought that the roadmap would be the best way to show them that we're committed to the product.''

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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