Sun, Oracle at odds over Java tools

Two allies have different views over whether Oracle supports Sun's NetBeans programming software.

Stephen Shankland
Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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2 min read
Two weeks ago, the chief executives at Oracle and Sun Microsystems united on stage to tout their partnership, but already the two companies aren't seeing eye to eye on one issue.

The companies differ on whether Oracle supports Sun's NetBeans software, which is used to develop Java server applications. At the joint event, Sun CEO Scott McNealy trumpeted what he called "a big Oracle endorsement of NetBeans."

But Oracle's Larry Ellison wasn't so warm. "We certainly think Sun's NetBeans initiative is important. We're watching it very closely," he allowed. But the company's Java focus is with its own JDeveloper and the multicompany Eclipse tools, he said.

With Oracle databases popular on Sun servers, the companies are close partners, so any difference of opinion about NetBeans or other competing products draws attention. In this case, Oracle's position is significant, since it's a major Java licensee and a major backer of Eclipse--a project with widespread industry support that is NetBeans' strongest competitor.

Neither side is backing down, though Oracle hasn't explicitly denied a further deal is possible. Indeed, if anything, the companies' expressed views have diverged farther since the joint meeting.

"The endorsement of NetBeans shows that community is continuing to grow and that the big boys are signing on--even when they have their own tool set," McNealy said in a Jan. 15 e-mail to CNET News.com.

On Wednesday, Sun affirmed its view. "They are supporting JDeveloper and Eclipse and are now endorsing NetBeans," said Sun spokeswoman Terri Molini. Sun also distributed marketing material on Wednesday that asserts Oracle's supposed NetBeans endorsement "will fuel innovation through open-source software and community-based development" and "accelerate Java development across all platforms."

Oracle admits it's looking at NetBeans--no surprise given that it competes directly with JDeveloper--but that's not much of an endorsement. And beyond that, Oracle appears to be trying to steer votes toward its own projects.

"As of right now, Oracle is focused on JDeveloper and Eclipse, and we have no plans to adopt either NetBeans or any of its technology. Any statements to the contrary by anyone else in the industry are not true," Thomas Kurian, senior vice president for Oracle Fusion Middleware, said in an Oracle interview published Jan. 20.

In a statement Wednesday, Oracle reiterated its position of monitoring NetBeans while focusing on JDeveloper and Eclipse. The company didn't comment further.