Sun Makes New Play for Developers

SAN FRANCISCO—Even as Microsoft pulls out the stops to convince corporate developers that Java is passé, Sun Microsystems has been working behind the scenes to up the programming language’s corporate appeal—and even to steal away some of Microsoft’s Visual Basic developers.

At the JavaOne developers conference here this week, Sun announced the formation of a new Java Center of Excellence practice, aimed at helping Fortune 500 companies improve their in-house development staff’s use of Java.

The service, offered jointly by Sun Professional Services, Sun consulting and training, and Sun Educational Services, is charged with establishing Java Centers of Excellence within Fortune companies. The center will do everything from assessing current architectures; to implementing software reuse strategies and processes; to assisting companies in developing comprehensive training, delivery and evaluation plans for Java-based projects.

Also at JavaOne, Sun made available a new version of Sun ChiliSoft ASP software, Version 3.6.2. ChiliSoft ASP is a cross-platform implementation of Microsoft’s Active Server Pages (ASP) technology, which allows the creation of dynamic Web pages. The ChiliSoft product is aimed at helping Java and ASP developers to work on portable, cross-platform applications.

Also among its slew of JavaOne announcements, Sun unveiled new, more-open Java licensing terms. The Apache Foundation struck a deal with Sun and other members of the Java Community Process group to allow open-source implementations of current and future Java technologies.

Sun CEO Scott McNealy announced the open-source agreement just a day before Microsoft countered with its own licensing announcement: an expansion of Redmond’s so-called “shared source” licensing terms for its C# programming language and Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) code for academic institutions.

Microsoft and Sun have continued to trade barbs over whether Java or Microsoft’s own programming languages and tools, such as C# and Visual Basic, are best suited for corporate development. In recent weeks, Microsoft announced a beta release of a tool designed to move companies from Java to Microsoft’s Visual Studio tool suite.

Microsoft also discussed a security breach it discovered in the Microsoft Virtual Machine, the company’s own version of the Java Virtual Machine technology.

While Sun has not been as public as Microsoft in wooing corporate developers, it has made some attempts to reach out to Visual Basic developers. Some Visual Basic developers have expressed publicly their qualms about moving to Microsoft’s newest version, Visual Basic.Net, because they claim it is so different from and incompatible with previous VB versions that upgrading is a major hurdle.

Sun recently has begun attempting to attract some of these disenfranchised developers via a new Web site designed to highlight the differences between VB and Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE).