Sun has started preparing the way for its entry into development software, claiming it is on schedule with the creation of its own IDE (integrated development environment), the Sun Java Studio Creator.

Just a few weeks after Sun reiterated that it won't join IBM to push Eclipse as an industry-standard for Java programmers (it even haughtily suggested IBM move to its Java Desktop System), the company has started playing up Creator.

Codenamed "Project Rave", Creator aims to simplify Java development so that non-programmers such as business execs can create and modify their own applications. Sun executives are pitching it as the Java counterpart to Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net.

Sun said that Creator was now entering the second phase of its beta program. An initial preview went out in December to 150 test users. The company is working on project changes and updates based on the feedback and will send out a second release within the next week, said Jim Inscore, Creator's marketing manager.

A wider beta program, planned for next month, has already signed up 10,000 participants, Inscore said. Sun is aiming for a June release of Creator, in time for its JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

Creator's second technical preview version will include some changes to ease installation, as well as other tweaks to improve usability, Inscore said. He claimed that there has been strong interest in Creator in the financial, government, automotive and telecommunication industries.

Meanwhile, IBM this week released a series of evaluation kits designed to draw developers to its own IBM Software Development Platform. The eight "PowerPack" kits are tailored for various types of users - such as programmers, testers, IT managers and project managers - and include demos, white papers and code intended to help potential customers evaluate IBM's software tools.

The PowerPacks are available on IBM's developerWorks Web site, at http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/platform/.