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Sun Brews Up Rich JavaFX

Sun Brews Up Rich JavaFX

Sun Microsystems' new JavaFX is the company's answer to Ajax, Silverlight, Flex and various other platforms developers can use to bring rich Internet applications to Web surfers. JavaFX is designed to bring high-fidelity audio and video to Web apps used both inside and beyond the browser, but rival platforms have already been hard at work for some time courting developers.

By Chris Maxcer
12/04/08 2:21 PM PT

Sun Microsystems has launched a new platform in an attempt to gain a foothold in the rapidly growing rich internet applications (RIA) space, as well as generate solutions for mobile devices and even TVs. The platform, JavaFX 1.0, seeks to let developers build Web apps with high-fidelity audio and video, rich text, vector graphics, animation and Web services for, as Sun notes, "all the screens of life."

Because Java technology is already installed on more than 90 percent of PC desktops and laptops, can be found on 85 percent of mobile devices, and is in next-generation televisions, Blu-ray disc players, and TV set-top boxes, Sun says JavaFX opens up a vast market for developers and content authors.

"The Internet marketplace has evolved within and well beyond the traditional Web browser, fueled by an explosion of Java-powered smartphones and consumer electronics devices, from RIM's BlackBerry to Amazon's Kindle," noted Jonathan Schwartz, chief executive officer and president of Sun Microsystems.

"Sun's newest JavaFX platform unifies Java technology across billions of such devices, with an easy to use, open source platform now enabled with high-quality video and audio, targeting consumers and content owners across the world -- and across the Internet," he added.


To get consumers interested, ease-of-use is paramount. Sun is trumpeting its Drag-to-Install feature, which lets end users drag and drop JavaFX applications directly from their browsers onto their desktops.

For developers, JavaFX avoids much of Java's complexity and could offer a dramatically shortened production cycle and make it easier to create RIAs for desktops, browsers and mobile devices. Sun says it has a new JavaFX mobile emulator, and Sun's JavaFX mobile platform will be available to Sun's mobile partners in the spring of 2009.

Late to the Game

"The biggest challenge for Sun is being late to the game and also getting existing Java developers to convert from the Web application-dominated mindset to using JavaFX for their UIs (user interfaces)," Michael Coté, an analyst for RedMonk, told TechNewsWorld.

"Adobe has been courting the Java developer world with Flex for a while but hasn't stepped up the efforts as much as Sun obviously can. That said, there is a fair amount of Flex interest at the moment," he added.

In terms of today's RIA competition, "It's Silverlight vs. Flash Platform vs. JavaFX vs. Ajax," he said, noting that Java developers tend to have a bit of Sun bias in them.

"Java developers tend to like things that come from the Java world rather than outside of it. ... Still, there's a lot of work to do to convince those developers to move away from Ajax-based Web apps as their primary UI layer," he explained.

"It would be monumental for Java to return to the UI layer, especially with the GUI-ness that things like JavaFX brings," he added.

Full JavaFX product details, code samples and applications, tutorials, articles and documentation for the JavaFX platform are available here.

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