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Prague outfit prepares NetBeans development tools

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Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

With more and more attention being given to Java, tools developers have become very sexy. NetBeans, based in Prague, and founded in July 1997 by Roman Starek (previously with Sybase, Informix and PowerSoft) is one of the more prominent second wave Java tools developers. Its venture capital was arranged through EDventure Holdings ($1 million) and James Gellert of Woodcrest Partners. NetBeans is an object-oriented, visual programming environment for client-side development of Java applications. It is written in Java and is entirely based on JavaBeans components and Swing, so making it platform independent. JavaBeans is used as the component model for the development and deployment environments. NetBeans is written in Java 2 and runs on any Java 2-enabled platform, including Windows, Solaris, and Linux (the Red Hat Linux 6.0 is bundled). NetBeans has a Java integrated development environment (IDE) in three versions: Developer, Professional, and Enterprise, and is in public beta. So far, some 20,000 copies of Developer have been downloaded. The Pro version is designed for database work (with full JDBC - Java Database Connectivity - API support), servlets and XML support, while the Enterprise version has support for EJB, CORBA, RMI, and JNDI in a single environment, with wizards and templates helping to make development faster. There is also support for half a dozen leading Java ORBs, including JacORB which is widely used in the Linux community. NetBeans is using a mix-and-match approach to build additional capability into its products, and has integrated a debugger from Metamata's Debug, and Object International's Together/3 modelling tool. It has also partnered with EJB-vendor Gemstone. A recent relationship with Tendril makes it possible to use the latter's StructureBuilder as a plug-in to Developer, and to design UML (unified modelling language) models inside the development environment. The competition in this burgeoning field is fierce, with IBM's VisualAge, Borland's JBuilder, and Symantec's Visual Café for starters. Perhaps not surprisingly, NetBeans is rumoured to have caught the eye of Sun, and since Sun dropped Java Studio and failed to release the source code of JavaWorkshop, an acquisition is a strong possibility. Yet Sun must be concerned not to be seen to be competing with its partners, so however NetBeans were handled, there would be a need for it to be at arm's length. NetBeans has shown that even in Central Europe it is possible to move quickly and work at the state of the art. Starek was fortunate to have tapped the US VC market, since European VCs have historically been much more conservative, and only willing to pour in some cash for a few months before making a killing (they hope), when the company goes public. Starek says that a significant stumbling block has been European banks, none of which would offer terms for credit card processing that were even remotely close to those offered in the US. So far as e-commerce is concerned in the Czech Republic, Starek says it's so disappointing it's hardly worth trying. ®

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