Scoop: Sun kills Java tools

Acquisition of Esther Dyson's NetBeans could be on tap.

Sun Microsystems has killed two of its Java tools, Java Workshop and Java Studio, and is expected to replace them by buying a tools company within the next few weeks, say sources close to the company.

A Sun spokesman acknowledges the tools' demise and notes that as a major platform vendor Sun strives to offer "complete end-to-end solutions" to developers. But he says that Sun will not comment on any pending acquisition.

Sun has said publicly it is shopping for tools and agreed in August to acquire Forte Software, which makes enterprise tools that can dynamically partition client/server applications. One source close to Sun says the company's next purchase will be NetBeans, a Prague-based startup that offers a Java Integrated Development Environment running on Solaris, Windows NT and Linux.

NetBeans comes bundled with RedHat Linux 6.0, and the company has announced support for Sun's Java 2 Enterprise Edition along with entry, professional and enterprise versions of its tool. NetBeans' chairman of the board is Esther Dyson, whose EDventure Holdings invests in emerging technology in Central and Eastern Europe. NetBeans officials declined to comment.

Developers say NetBeans is highly regarded and has fared well in a market dominated by three much larger players -- Symantec with VisualCafe, IBM with VisualAge, and Borland with JBuilder. NetBeans has a close relationship with Sun and was one of the first tools to support Sun's Java 2 platform. It was also featured last spring in the launch of HotSpot, Sun's much-hyped Java Virtual Machine for improving Java performance.

Sun's struggle with its Java tools has been difficult for the company, given that Java is supposed to be the centrepiece of its software strategy. Developers say Sun has debated internally whether to play in the tools space, because doing so puts it in competition with its partners.

Sun made a last attempt to save Java Workshop in December, when it promised to make source code publicly available by second quarter under the Sun Community Source License, a quasi-open-source license that is free for research and development. But the move never happened, and several members of the Java Workshop team quietly slipped away to work for the Sun-Netscape Alliance.