IBM and other sellers of Java development tools are known for the sophisticated functionality they put in their tools to help support large teams of programmers. Microsoft's tools are known for their ease of use. Now, each camp is trying to grab a piece of the other's territory.
Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005 Team System will integrate the work of the various members of software-development teams into one toolset, letting architects who write requirements for software projects work in the same environments as developers writing the code, for example. That will increase the productivity of teams, Microsoft says. But IT shops will have to wait for those features to show up. Last week, Microsoft CFO John Connors said he expects company revenue from development tools to decline during the current fiscal year, which began July 1, as users wait for the new version of Visual Studio, not scheduled to arrive until the middle of next year.
At the same time, IBM's Rational unit is trying to draw closer to Microsoft in ease of use. At an IBM conference last week for developers who use Rational tools, the company said it plans to deliver by year's end versions of the tools that add visual navigation features, wizard assistants, and greater ease of use. The goal of the tools, code-named Atlantic, is to make it easier for existing Java programmers to produce code and expand the ranks of Java programmers. "There'll be a lot less toggling back and forth between tools than in older versions," says Michael Devlin, general manager of the Rational unit. In addition, Atlantic will be more fully integrated with IBM's Eclipse open-source development platform.
Java tool makers, such as IBM's Rational software unit and Sun Microsystems with its Java Studio Creator, want to take their enterprise-development tools and move them to less-skilled developers, while Microsoft wants a larger share of developers who build large-business apps and of programmers who work on complex projects in distributed teams. "Our goal is to create a mass market in enterprise tools," says Rick LaPlante, general manager of Visual Studio 2005 Team System at Microsoft.
IBM has experienced a comeback in the market for developer tools since it released Eclipse three years ago; its previous VisualAge tools failed to gain a prominent place in the market. Sellers of Java tools, including Borland, Compuware, and SAP, use Eclipse to let architects, designers, and programmers share files across tools.
One emerging battlefront between IBM and Microsoft is the market for development teams that work in different countries, a trend in IT departments that are turning to programmers in India and other countries to handle more work. Visual Studio 2005 Team System will offer more features for projects spread across countries, Microsoft says. And IBM's Atlantic tools will be able to store code and test results in Rational's version-control and bug-tracking software, which the company says will be a boon to distributed teams.