Creator for the Corporate Coder
- By John K. Waters
I dropped by the 2005 TopCoder
Open a few of weeks ago to watch
some elite programmers cutting code like katana-swinging samurai in a big meeting room in the
Santa Clara Marriott. But mostly I was there to talk with
some folks from Sun Microsystems,
the event, and to snag a free bear claw. The Sun reps were there
to give a talk on JavaServer Faces, demo a preview of the upcoming Java
Studio Creator 2 IDE, and scope the joint for bad-ass coders.
Sun senior software architect Joe Nuxoll did the Creator demo, and David Folk, who manages that product line,
handled the marketing pitch with me afterward. Folk knows his stuff, and it
was a good pitch. He talked about how Creator provides a rapid, visual, drag-and-drop environment
for building Web apps, includes a set of JSF components, supports AJAX
through a component library, and is currently free to users of the
NetBeans platform and members of the Sun
Developer Network (which is
free to join). He also talked about the primarly target audience for
Creator, a class of programmer sometimes referred
to as the ''corporate developer.''
''When I say 'corporate developer,' I'm not talking
about someone who is necessarily technically unsophisticated,'' Folk told me.
''I'm talking about someone who is willing to trade
some level of control for productivity.''
In other words, Visual Basic-type developers.
I asked Nuxoll, who is the lead Creator engineer (and who, I swear, looks
like Tom Cruise, but without the jumping up and down and the railing against
serotonin uptake inhibitors), about this market, and he made no bones about
Sun's goals: ''We want to move corporate developers from the Microsoft platform onto
the Java platform.''
Creator 2 looks to be a responsive, easy-to-use IDE,
especially for Web applications. And there is a substantial and fervent NetBeans community out there
(Creator 2 is built on NetBeans 4.1, the late-June update of the open-source
IDE). But really, how much of an impact can the tool have on that market? I
suggested to Nuxoll that the plan seemed especially David-and-Goliath-like given
the then-pending überlaunch
Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005 IDE.
He was unfazed by my observation. The VS05 launch, he said, would create an
In Sunspeak, an inflection point is a soft spot that forms in a competitor's flank when that company
presents its customers with a big decision—basically, to upgrade or not to
upgrade. In other words, this line of reasoning goes, what Visual Basic 6.0 and
Visual Basic.NET users are actually facing right now is a choice between ramping up
for the new version of the Microsoft IDE and jumping to Java, given comparable
learning curves. With this soft spot in its sights, Sun plans to ''put some
muscle'' into a NetBeans push over the next few months, Nuxoll said.
Since that meeting, announcements have been gushing out of Sun, both around
its tools and its other software and systems. On the tooling front:
- The Tokyo JavaOne
conference, held last week at the Tokyo International Forum in Japan, saw
the announcement of Sun's UML 2.0-supporting Java Studio
Enterprise 8 IDE, which the company is giving away free to SDN members.
- On Wednesday, the company launched its Sun Studio 11
dev tool for high-performance computing environments, another freebie for SDN
members. Studio 11 targets the HPC crowd, which constists mainly of C/C++ and
Fortran developers. In a related announcement, the company cut the ribbon on a
new testing and benchmarking facility in Hillsboro, OR, for large-scale HPC
I don't know how seriously to take this
inflection-point business. Microsoft's hide seems pretty thick to me. VB
developers outnumber Java jocks by… well… a lot. A common estimate I see is 18
million, of which about 6 million are professionals. Sun pegs the Java developer
community at more than 4.5 million
other hand, there is something of a revolt afoot in the
VB ranks. The Microsoft product train is definitely .NET-bound, and the company's decision
to cease development of its BASIC language platform with version 6
was apparently a fairly jarring turn of events for more than a few Visual Basic
6.0 developers, many of whom believe that Visual Studio.NET, VB6's successor and VS05's
predecessor, breaks pre-existing VB apps. A long list of Microsoft MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals) seem to
have added their names to an online petition
demanding that the company continue development and support
of ''classic'' Visual Basic. Some market watchers are reporting that the
number of VB developers worldwide is in decline against
rising numbers of Java developers, though I have yet to see a solid connection
between these statistics and the VB6 controversy. Even the disgruntled VB
programmers aren't talking about jumping to Java.
But who knows; enterprise Java is the preferred platform for
developing large-scale distributed apps in organizations of any size. J2EE (I
mean, Java EE) is everywhere. So is its influence. And if you think about it,
Sun probably doesn't need to take a very big bite out of the VB pie to get a
nice sugar rush.
BTW: Nuxoll and a bunch of Sun people are blogging on the subject of Creator here.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached