Sun has released the second beta version of Java Standard Edition (Java SE) 6 adding database and visual development to the Java developer kit.

Java SE 6 is generally perceived as the desktop client-based version of Java. It can serve as a basis for future enhancements to the enterprise-level version of Java, known as Java Enterprise Edition. The new beta is downloadable here .

Java DB, which is the Sun-supported distribution of the Apache Derby database, will be included in the Java SE 6 Development Kit, as will the GroupLayout component from the NetBeans GUI Bulder, codenamed Project Matisse. Sun also is announcing that PC builders Lenovo and Founder Technology Group will offer the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) with their PC hardware.

The database, which has a footprint of 2 Mbyte, is a transactional relational database that supports triggers and stored procedures. It can be used to store persistent data on the client or server. "Developers now have a database out of the box," said Bill Curci, Sun product marketing manager for the Java Platform.

Java DB will be available through early-access weekly builds at https://mustang.dev.java.net.

Incorporating the GroupLayout component into the JDK provides a Swing-based visual designer for building user interfaces for Java applications. "It makes for a better user experience for drag-and-drop layout," said Curci.

Sun does not view this feature as providing an alternative to AJAX-based (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) development of web applications. Developers have their own preferences on which technologies they use, Curci said.

"There may be a lot of variables that go into an individual choice on whether to use AJAX or Java as the basis for rich client development," he said.

Among the key themes in Java SE 6, which has been codenamed Mustang, include what Sun is describing as Web 2.0 technologies such as enhanced web services and scripting language support. Java methods and objects can be invoked through scripting.

Other themes include monitoring and management enhancements, desktop look and feel improvements, developer productivity and ensuring compatibility with previous releases and among different operating platforms.

Java SE 6 will be released in autumn 2006.

Sun's arrangements with Lenovo and Founder Technology differ from recent efforts to push Java run-time deployments with Linux distributions. "The Lenovo and Founder agreements are about getting the Java run time on Windows PCs," said Curci. Java run times make it possible to run Java applications.

The two companies will start shipping the latest JRE as early as the third quarter of this year.