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Software developers using Borland's soon-to-be dumped integrated development environments (IDEs) are being sized up by the competition. Sun Microsystems and REAL Software are working separately to persuade JBuilder and Delphi developers to switch to their application development tools.

Sun, which has been lobbying JBuilder developers for years to use its NetBeans-based IDEs, told The Register it planned "more marketing" against JBuilder. Smaller REAL Software is targeting Delphi users with the offer of a free license for its REALbasic 2006 for Windows.

While REAL Software is targeting just users Borland's Delphi IDE using its similar object oriented language, Sun hopes to tempt the Delphi users with Java. Specifically, Sun is pitching its drag-and-drop Java Studio Creator environment.

Dan Roberts, director of developer tools marketing at Sun, said Java Studio Creator would get Delphi programmers using Java without needing to learn Java's complexity. Roberts called Java Studio Creator a "nice safe harbor" for Delphi developers.

"The ability for developers to move to Java Studio Creator and be productive without worrying about infrastructure that has made Java powerful and complex is an important part of why we built Java Studio Creator," Roberts said.

Delphi users won't be able to import their precious Delphi objects, though, and that's where REAL Software steps in. REAL uses the object oriented Basic instead of the Pascal type language used in Delphi, providing a greater degree of familiarity.

REAL Software president and chief executive Geoff Perlman calls Java Studio Creator applications slow to launch and execute, adding the environment is suited to web and server-side applications, but not to desktop applications.

"It's not surprising [Java Studio Creator is server side] because Sun is a server company. Java Studio Creator starts on web applications. That uses Sun's tools," Perlman said.

For Perlman, the hype over web- and server-side applications is going too far. "When the internet came along, everyone said the desktop was dead. The web is a good platform for forms, e-commerce and things like that. But it's not a very rich environment. People look at AJAX and think it's cool. But compared to desktop applications, it's rudimentary," Perlman said.

What's at stake for both companies is ownership of a dwindling section of the developer market. Delphi accounts for 11.5 per cent of the market while JBuilder is 7.5 per cent. Borland's IDEs have been progressively whittled away by the rise of "free" tools, specifically tools that use the open source Eclipse Framework for their infrastructure.

Roberts claims that a "large" number of Borland developers have abandoned JBuilder for NetBeans in recent years, although he cannot provide exact numbers. The big lure over Eclipse, he claims, is NetBeans' use of the Swing Java architecture instead of SWT, as used by Eclipse. JBuilder also uses Swing.

Sun hopes to further lure JBuilder users with advances at the application architecture and web services orchestration layer. The Java Platform Enterprise Edition 5.0 Software Development Kit (SDK) and NetBeans Enterprise Pack 5.5, released as preview editions this week, feature beta-level modeling and a Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) engine that will be released with the full product.®

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