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December 18, 2006

Sun launches Java Standard Edition 6

Sun's latest version of Java Standard Edition, Java SE 6, is now on general release. There are some excellent new features, and the overall impression is that there is a new confidence within Sun. It is behind the open sourcing of its tools in an endeavor to expand the Java market, and at the same time is focused on building a services and support business to earn revenue from it.

By CBR Staff Writer

The educational aspect is not least in this business model – the certification program is already a significant size and Sun is expanding tiers within that to cater for different skill levels and interests. In addition, this also lays to rest the perennial question of whether NetBeans, Sun’s integrated development environment (IDE), will merge with the rival open source IDE from the Eclipse Foundation; as NetBeans and Eclipse produce good, healthy competition within the Java community.

Java SE 6 may not have the same major language enhancements that differentiated SE 5 from SE 4, but, in terms of readiness to support the product, Sun has learned from past mistakes. Online tutorials, certification programs and books are all primed to deliver on the latest specification at the release date, and not six months later as has happened previously. This includes support for SE 6 in the latest NetBeans edition.

In the rivalry that is pushing Sun to outdo Eclipse, NetBeans can boast adoption of the latest Java edition, whereas, in the past, Eclipse has taken nine months to adopt the latest release. For anyone wishing to try out the latest SE 6 features, this is a good reason for trying out NetBeans, but the IDE has improved in a number of other ways to the point that its user base has now put it at number two in the Java IDE stakes – according to Sun, users have quadrupled in the past two years – and the ecosystem numbers 125 partners.

NetBeans features a number of user-friendly development tools, such as Matisse for graphical user interface, drag-and-drop layout. It adds enhancements to the look and feel, and alignment that makes NetBeans a good choice for multi-platform development, and it is also easier to use Swing; the graphics library. Swing itself has undergone a transformation in its performance, which Sun says is now ready for desktop applications, an area that Java has not succeeded in too well. For web applications, Sun Java Studio Creator (again a tool that is out-of-the-box with NetBeans) has had an Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) library added, making the tool a candidate for rich internet applications.

There is also increasing support for dynamic scripting languages: Sun is behind a JavaScript implementation, as well as Ruby on Rails, and there is an active forum for third-party initiatives covering popular dynamic languages such as PHP, Python, and many others. However, developers will have to wait for Java SE 7 to see dramatic performance improvements in scripting as a major re-architecting, currently in progress, is completed.

Sun is evolving Java, modernizing the language to compete with Microsoft’s C# (which came later and learned from the shortcomings of Java), but also bringing in dynamic scripting that can link to the many Java libraries. The emphasis is also on web 2.0 with Java SE 6. The Java phenomenon is likely to continue for some time yet.

Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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