Java Tools Community formed

SAN FRANCISCO (01/06/2004) - Eleven software companies, led by Sun Microsystems Inc. and BEA Systems Inc., on Tuesday unveiled the Java Tools Community (JTC), which is intended to promote interoperability of Java-based tools.

Absent from the mix, however, are major Java tools vendors IBM Corp. and Borland Software Corp. A Borland official said the company participated in formation but thought it was too early to announce the organization.

Featuring members of the Java Community Process (JCP), the JTC is touting the concept of "toolability," which is being defined as a measurement of how easy it is to build tools around a particular standard or technology. Developers through the work of the JTC will be able to more easily use Java technology to build Java applications, thus increasing the rate of Java adoption, according to JTC.

"Really, if you look at the story of Java that's been going on so far, one of the struggles that developers have is really having a toolset that keeps up with the innovation that's been going on in Java," said Rich Main, director of Java Development Environments at SAS, also a JTC member.

The JTC will work to make standard Java technology APIs friendlier for tool development and will promote adoption and advancement of Java Specification Requests. JSR 198, pertaining to a standard for plug-ins to Java IDEs, is one technology proposal that will be reviewed by the JTC. The organization will seek to resolve the issue of proprietary techniques hindering use of tools.

Initially, the JTC will begin deliberations in an online community fashion, but formal meetings also may be scheduled.

"What's been missing is a forum for tool community members to get together to talk about all the JRS' that go on," said Sun's Joe Keller, vice president of marketing for Java, Web services, and tools.

The JTC will seek to boost communications across the "design-time" community, allowing tools vendors, customers, and developers to access information and provide input when building or extending design-time standards via the JCP.

As the JTC proceeds, there will be discussions of product deliverables based on the organization's work, said Dave Cotter, director of developer marketing at BEA.

Other founding vendors include Compuware Corp., Embarcadero Technologies, Iopsis Software, JetBrains, Oracle Corp., and SAP AG.

JTC members stressed the organization would complement the work of the Eclipse open source Java tools initiative, which has been led by IBM, rather than boost any fragmentation. Organizations such as SAP participate in both the JTC and Eclipse, JTC members noted.

Keller stressed that the JTC would serve to unify the Java community.

"I think it unifies the Java community in ways that haven't been possible without an organization like this," he said. Efforts by Java vendors to attract developers from the lucrative Microsoft Visual Studio development base also would benefit from the JTC, according to Keller.

Eclipse and JTC serve different purposes, JTC members stressed. While JTC is focused on Java standards, Eclipse is about building an open source toolset, Keller said. Sun last month declined an invitation to join Eclipse, saying the company was not offered "an equitable share in mutual development."

Sun lobbied IBM about supporting the JTC, but IBM company officials declined the offer believing that Eclipse, with 56 companies now on its board of stewards, already has the necessary momentum to compete effectively against Visual Studio.

"We think Eclipse has a tremendous amount of momentum. We do not see a lot of obstacles standing in its (Eclipse's) way," said Bob Sutor, IBM's director of WebSphere Software. "Frankly, we are more focused on working against our number one competitor, Microsoft. We see it boiling down to more of an Eclipse-based IDE world vs. Visual Studio," he said.

Sutor added he does not believe there will be much self-destructive competition between the Eclipse and JTC camps and is confident both sides will work to make it clear that each will serve to complement the other.

Borland executives said they have been involved in the group since September, but felt this was not the appropriate time to launch it.

"It's still in the early days. There's still a lot of work to be done," said George Paolini, vice president and general manager of Java Solutions at Borland.

Paolini said that Borland would consider joining in the future if the group solidifies its road map and direction.

"The mechanics are not in place today," he said. "I want the JTC to push the JCP, but I want there to be a structure in place in which the JCP is accountable to the JTC and vice versa."

Some analysts do not think it is necessary for IBM and Borland to join the JTC in order to make it an estimable player in the tools market. Big Blue should only join if its only goal is to better Java as a framework.

"If IBM's goal is the betterment of Java as a framework and as an approach to development and deployment, [it] should join. But if [IBM wants] Eclipse to be the dominant IDE in order to drive more sales over to their runtime then they should not. [That decision] would cast light on (IBM's) goals," said Dana Gardner, senior analyst at The Yankee Group.

IBM officials "may talk the Java talk but they are really walking the WebSphere walk," Gardner said.

SAP's Michael Bechauf, vice president of NetWeaver Standards at the company, sought to dispel any perception that Eclipse was building a version of Java different from the one accepted by the Java community.

"I can't really see why Eclipse would be seen as a second Java," Bechauf said.

(Tom Sullivan contributed to this article.)

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