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Sun's Rave environment will face competition from several similar products. But worse, it could actually help competitors succeed at Sun's expense. Sun hopes to grow the community of developers building applications with Java in Rave, but these individuals might be quickly filtered away to rivals' Java platforms.

Sun Microsystems has finally unveiled its long-promised development environment to simplify programming in Java. Called "project Rave", it is designed to bring drag-and-drop capabilities to programmers building Java-based web services and applications.

On a strategic and technical basis, Rave holds promise as a developers' tool. Due in 2004, Rave is expected to compile Java code at the touch of a button, and uses Java Server Faces to develop interfaces using JavaServer Pages (JSPs). It is designed to import UI designs from software such as Adobe Systems' Illustrator.

Against this is the fact that Rave appears to be fairly lightweight when compared to other visual Java environments. Initially, at least, Rave is a JSP environment free of Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs). Neither is Sun dabbling with concepts creeping into tools from companies like Borland or Rational.

Sun deliberately set Rave's entry point low for two reasons: to make Java sufficiently easy enough to grow the number of programmers using the language by 10 million in three years, and to help to create "heightened interest" in Sun's other products. There's one problem. Rave may indeed bring 10 million new programmers to the Java pen, but if the herds of newly initiated Java programmers do arrive, Sun won't be alone in welcoming them.

BEA, IBM, Oracle, and others will line up like up like bidders at a cattle auction, waiting to brand them WebSphere, WebLogic or JDeveloper Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) programmers.

How? Rave, according to Sun, will deploy J2EE code that is capable of deploying on any compliant runtime. The problem is that while competitors' runtimes passed official Sun and Java Community Process (JCP) testing procedures, it's the little tweaks that subtly hinder true portability of Java applications and tie users to a particular platform. That's going to be a problem for Sun in a world where vendors are building ecosystems of developers in order to sustain their platforms.

Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor

Related research: Reuters Business Insight, "The Web Services Outlook"(RBTC0059)

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