Comment: A Sigh of Relief For NetBeans?

Anton Epple

In Oracle’s mammoth five hour long webcast broadcast on 27th January, Oracle’s Senior Vice President of Development Thomas Kurian, referred to NetBeans as a “lightweight IDE for Java Developers.” Should this illicit a sigh of relief from the NetBeans community, or should we all be vigilant for any indication that Oracle is still planning to sideline the popular IDE?

Last week, the following slide was projected across the Oracle
stage in California, and onto the monitors of thousands of webcast

JAXenter spoke with Anton Epple, a Member of
NetBeans Dream Team. How did Oracle’s roadmap for NetBeans sound to

first, I was very pleased that Oracle
has spoken so positively about the development
of the IDE. I found the above slide a bit
strange, but I don’t think we should read too much into it (For
example: “What is a lightweight IDE …?”)
To me the webcast with Ted Farrell, Chief
Architect and Oracle Senior Vice President is much more
illuminating than the presentation by Thomas Kurian,
from which this slide is taken. He spoke in
much more detail about the future  of NetBeans. Although, the
webcast was somewhat
at odds with the presentation by Kurian.
Farrell announced that
NetBeans will be focused on core Java
technologies (Java, Java EE, JavaFX and JavaME)
and that Oracle would look to the community to continue teh
development of
scripting languages. He also explicitly talked
about the NetBeans platform. I can take
these announcements more seriously, than I can the
presentation by Kurian, which was addressed
to a more business-orientated audience.“ Anton

Overall, Oracle seemed to be trying to keep everyone happy. The
rumour that Oracle will lay off thousands of workers was countered
by CEO Larry Ellison’s assurance that Oracle weren’t only not
firing people – they were hiring! The rumours that JavaOne 2010 may
not take place were dashed by Charles Phillips: JavaOne isn’t just
continuing, it’s being expanded to the BRIC countries, (Brazil,
Russia, India, China)! Oracle are going to increase investment in
Java, increase investment in Solaris, in GlassFish, in

Can we believe everything Oracle says about the future of NetBeans?
Considering NetBeans is a competitor to Oracle’s own JDeveloper,
and Eclipse?

at Farrell’s presentation, I get the impression
Oracle have considered the IDE very carefully.
The best investment in the future of NetBeans,
is the evolutio of the NetBeans platform and the language support
for Java. Where you have stable
well-documented APIs, it’s easier for the
community to contribute to the NetBeans
project, and to support the additional technologies and frameworks
with plugins. In this domain, NetBeans has changed its focus too
often in the past. I was impressed with Farrell’s grasp
of the IDE. That alone, was very
encouraging and it suggests that Oracle is taking
NetBeans very seriously. I have many
clients who rely on the NetBeans platform as
a basis for their applications, so I
have heard many questions in the past
about the future of the IDE and the
platform. That Oracle has directly addressed the users
of the platform and pledged its continued
support, has been very well received.” Anton

Of course, Oracle has developed its own IDE: JDeveloper (the
current version is 11g ( released November 2009.)
JDeveloper is not an arbitrarily replaceable module; it’s deeply
integrated in the Oracle tool chain. The design-time tools of
Oracle BPEL Process Manager, Portal, and many other components of
the Oracle-based platform, are built on JDeveloper and everyone
assumed that Oracle would continue to use JDeveloper. The webcast
confirmed this: Oracle’s JDeveloper will remain a strategic
development tool.

NetBeans is, for Oracle, a rather unexpected and involuntary
acquisition. For some time, Oracle seemed unsure of what to do with
its new IDE-jewel. How does Anton Epple see the future of NetBeans,
as an Oracle acquisition?

and JDeveloper are coming closer together.
In the past, Oracle  has already
focused on the
interoperability of IDEs. It created the
JSR-198 “A Standard Extension API for Integrated
Development Environments” for this exact purpose. JSR0198, by the
way, was led by Ted Farrell.

that the technical hurdles are not high,
and the political barriers have fallen, it seems likely that the
NetBeans IDE and JDeveloper will exchange

plugins pretty soon,
via this, or some other similar
specification. The NetBeans Form Builder would be of particular
interest to JDeveloper of course, and I would

imagine that NetBeans would benefit
from ADF support.

NetBeans offers the mo
re powerful application
platform, it is reasonable proposition to
use this platform for both IDEs. In the
past, Sun has shipped a whole portfolio
of IDEs based on the NetBeans platform.
Thst is not a bad model to follow.
JDeveloper can then continue to support
Oracle Middleware-specific development as a
strategic tool. NetBeans, meanwhile, can support
the mass market. One should not forget
that with Sun, Oracle has also taken
over responsibility of the Java platform,
and NetBeans has traditionally been used as
a test platform for new specifications. That
is the direction would encourage Oracle
to take. Let’s see what Oracle actually
does with its two tools.” Anton Epple.

But, Oracle doesn’t only have JDeveloper and NetBeans to factor
into its roadmap. Oracle is one of fourteen strategic members of
the Eclipse Foundation. It is substantially involved in the Eclipse
project and has initiated the JPA 2.0 reference implementation
EclipseLink; one of the flagship projects of the Eclipse Platform.
As a strategic member of the Eclipse Foundation, Oracle has to
designate at least eight committers to work full-time on Eclipse
projects. Oracle employees are currently working full-time on
projects such as in the Dali Java Persistence Tools Web Tools, the
Webtools JavaServer Faces and Webtools releng.

In addition, Oracle developed the Enterprise Pack for Eclipse, a
collection of Eclipse plugins for the programming and deployment of
applications for Oracle WebLogic Server. Oracle is a long-time
supporter of Eclipse, and Thomas Kurian was again very clear about
this in his webcast: Oracle remains a strategic member of the
Eclipse Foundation, Oracle will continue to equip the Enterprise
Pack for Eclipse 11g with new features.

The questions remains: is there still room for NetBeans in the
crowded world of Oracle-owned IDEs? In the long run, can Oracle
afford to develop three IDEs? Let’s hope that all the positive
announcements of the webcast, were not pure marketing spiel. After
all, the NetBeans community has already lost Project Kenai – how
much more can it afford to lose?

Anton Epple
Anton Epple works as a freelance Java consultant and trainer in Munich. For more than seven years he has led the development of Java desktop applications. As an active member of the open source community, he became Head of the Java Tools community on in 2007. For several years, he works intensively with experts of the NetBeans Platform, and is member of the NetBeans Dream Team since 2008.
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