Oracle plans gain Java community consensus

Integration is the name of the game...
Written by CNET Networks, Contributor

Integration is the name of the game...

In a move that has exposed a growing schism in the Java community, an Oracle proposal to bridge Java development tools moved ahead this week with approval from competing Java companies. Oracle submitted its Java Specification Request (JSR) 198 proposal last month to the Java Community Process (JCP), the Sun Microsystems-led program for introducing new features into Java specifications. An expert review committee to examine the proposal was selected this week. The proposal outlines a standardised way to merge Java programming tools from several companies into an integrated development environment (IDE), which would then allow access to all the tools through a single interface. Oracle intends to present a draft of the specification by March next year through the JCP. Java backers such as BEA Systems, Borland and IBM will contribute to suggested add-ons and incorporate approved updates to the specification to ensure it will work with their products. Oracle's stated goal is to codify the mechanism for plugging together different Java programming applications. Once standardised, an application developer could use a single Java IDE and be sure that an application for testing Java code, for example, would work glitch-free with tools for program design and source-code control. Although other Java companies have applauded Oracle's goal, the proposal raises a contentious technical issue that continues to divide software makers. BEA and Sun back a method using Java's Abstract Windowing Toolkit (AWT) and Swing GUI (graphical user interface) components for building application user interfaces. The AWT/Swing approach creates identical presentations, regardless of the operating system. For example, an application that presents order status from a customer care application would look the same to a Windows XP, Macintosh or Linux computer. On the other side is an approach espoused by IBM and incorporated into Eclipse - an IBM-backed project that is also tackling how to integrate different types of development applications - is called Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT). It allows developers to create applications that have a look that is particular to each operating system. These two Java tool integration plans represent major philosophical differences over how to build Java programs. The Oracle standardisation initiative is not expected to splinter Java developers further, however, because the Java tools market is already well divided among a few large players. However, a key reason to present a unified IDE is to give Java developers a more attractive alternative to Microsoft's Visual Studio.Net tool, which has broad third-party support. Microsoft's tools, which work only for Windows application development, are already well integrated into a single IDE. A unified IDE would also make it easier for programmers new to Java, or those working in information technology departments, to more easily learn how to build Java software. Microsoft's tools are generally seen as easier to use for IT developers building business applications. Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at IT market research firm RedMonk, said: "Does the Java community need these different vendor-led efforts? Probably not - a single approach would be their biggest weapon against Microsoft. From Microsoft's perspective, it can't really get much better." Martin LaMonica writes for News.com
Editorial standards