Sun offers support to NetBeans users

Sun Microsystems will provide code-level customer support for the NetBeans open source tools platform, the latest version of which is being released by the Sun-driven NetBeans community on Wednesday.

The company's services are intended to assure users that a major company is there to support them as they develop mission-critical applications on the new release, NetBeans IDE 5.0. So far, the only support available has been through the community, via means such as newsgroups and forums, said Dan Roberts, Sun's director of developer tools marketing.

Initially, support will be free, but Sun at some point plans to charge several hundred dollars per incident, Roberts said.

Featuring the Matisse Java GUI builder, NetBeans 5.0 remains a lower-key rival to the ubiquitous Eclipse open source effort. Eclipse seemingly has the backing of every major vendor but Sun and Microsoft, boasting of support from companies such as IBM, Oracle, and BEA Systems. Sun, however, continues marching forward with NetBeans, touting Matisse and other new features.

"Matisse is a new visual GUI builder that allows developers to save a lot of time laying out their GUIs. This has been a huge problem in the Java industry for many years," Roberts said. "This is the big, new, hot feature that the developers are really clamoring for," he said.

Also featured in version 5.0 is a set of documentation and wizards to make it easier to build plug-ins and extensions to NetBeans. The platform could be extended through development of features such as UML (Unified Modeling Language) support or an improved debugger.

NetBeans 5.0 features the NetBeans Mobility Pack, for building applications for cell phones and PDAs. It is easier in release 5.0 to connect mobile applications like sales-force automation tools to back-end systems such as Web services or server-side data .A production-quality release of the NetBeans Profiler is featured in version 5.0. It enables developers to profile applications to check performance issues such as bottlenecks and memory leaks. A dynamic byte code injection feature enables modeling of an application or a particular method with less overhead than was previously required.

Increased refactorings are available in version 5.0, including "Safe Delete," "Pull Up," "Push Down," and "Extract Super Class." Web services have been enhanced to enable development of Web service clients in J2SE applications.

Sun on January 10 touted a so-called endorsement of NetBeans by Oracle. But in a Web posting shortly thereafter, Thomas Kurian, Oracle senior vice president, said Oracle believes that NetBeans is important, but that the company has no plans to actually use NetBeans for anything. Oracle instead will stick with its JDeveloper Java tool and Eclipse.

Sun remains confident that Oracle can climb aboard.

"Right now, we're just in kind of high-level discussions with Oracle about the relationship that we can build," Roberts said.

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