Sun's NetBeans rearing for a fight

In the world of Java software development, the biggest news so far this year has been that BEA Systems, Sybase, and Borland—three major application development companies—have boosted their commitment significantly to Eclipse, the IBM-founded open-source development tool framework. All three companies are now on the Eclipse Foundation board and will offer their development products as plug-ins to the Eclipse software.

But Eclipse is not the only open-source tool story in town. Sun remains committed to NetBeans, an open-source product, on which Sun is building its commercial line of tools.

And it is boosting efforts to recruit Java developers who have gone over to the dark side. It has a Web site dedicated to programmers considering the switch from Eclipse to NetBeans. And significantly, Sun and the NetBeans community have invested in the technology, bringing substantial improvements over the past year.

So where do we go from here? As RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady points out , the technical prowess of one tool platform may be less important in the long run than the size of the community around it.

But then again, the battle for Java developer interest between Eclipse and NetBeans may be a good thing for customers. As one reader pointed out, "an industry that is all up in arms about Windows monoculture suddenly turns around and sees an alternate Java open-source IDE (integrated development environment) option as a bad thing."