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Sun to beef up Java tools

Using code names like Tiger and Mako, the company's ready to sink its teeth into programming improvements.

Sun Microsystems will launch its newest Java development tool at the JavaOne conference next week and lay out plans for improvements to the Java language.

The company is expected to tout Java Studio Creator, a tool designed to lure developers away from Microsoft's easy-to-use tools, notably Visual Basic. Java Studio Creator is slated to be completed this summer and cost $99 per developer, according to a person familiar with the company's plans.

At the conference in San Francisco, Sun is also scheduled to detail a new, faster version of the "runtime" software that supports Java tools and applications. Code-named "Tiger," Java 2 Standard Edition 1.5 is designed to make Java programmers more productive and Java applications run faster. J2SE 1.5, expected to ship early this fall, will have performance improvements and add support for the Basic Profile set of guidelines from the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization.

Next week, Sun also will announce that it will have a second beta test for a developer kit for J2SE, according to a source familiar with the company's plans. The first beta for Tiger came out in February.

"The key focus there on the Java platform for J2SE has been performance and ease of use, ease of operation," said John Loiacono, Sun's new executive vice president for software. "There are pretty dramatic performance increases. We've seen some applications run 40 to 50 percent faster based on the new runtime."

Sun plans to expand on the initial release of Java Studio Creator in an effort to broaden the base of developers. "Thresher," the code-name for a visual development tool slated for release in the fourth quarter this year, will add better support for building Web portal applications.

"Mako," an update being readied for the second quarter of 2005, will introduce some modeling capabilites and allow graphical user interface code using Swing to work with the Eclipse Java development tools, according to one source. The popular Eclipse development tool has a different method for writing application front ends than the Sun-backed Swing system.

"This is a tacit recognition that Eclipse is very hot, and developers demand some integration with it," said one person familiar with Sun's plans.

The Creator line is a complement to Sun's existing Java programming line. While its Java Studio Standard and Java Studio Enterprise are aimed at more highly trained professional, Sun introduced Creator, formerly called Project Rave, last year in an effort to capture a larger audience of programmers and drive revenue of Sun's Java software.

Another important topic Sun will address next week is the question of making Java open-source software. Sun plans a panel discussion with representatives from Sun and IBM, which called on Sun to open Java, to discuss the matter next Thursday.