Sun Plans Java App Store

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-05-20 Print this article Print

Sun Microsystems is preparing to launch what could become the app store of all app stores when it unveils a new Java application marketplace, in an effort known as Project Vector, at the upcoming JavaOne conference, which starts June 1.

Sun Microsystems is preparing to launch what could become the app store of all app stores when it unveils a new Java application marketplace, in an effort known as Project Vector, at the upcoming JavaOne conference, which starts June 1 in San Francisco.

In a blog post about the new effort, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz discusses the company's goals for the new app store and the overall opportunity it presents for Sun. As Schwartz said, the opportunity, based on the number of Java users and potential Java users, is large -- more than a billion users throughout the world.

But one has to wonder, as with so many previous JavaOnes and previous attempts to monetize Java, if this will be yet another big splash with negligible return. In his post, Schwartz talks of the ubiquity of Java and its power as a distribution mechanism. Said Schwartz:

"As you know, we're fond of throwing great big numbers around when talking about Java's distribution: billions of PCs, mobile devices and smartcards, millions of enterprise servers, set top boxes, Blu-Ray DVD players and a growing number of very cool Kindles...Very few technologies on the Internet have anywhere near that kind of distribution muscle. Adobe's Flash, and Microsoft's Windows are just about its only peers when measured by runtime volume."

Indeed, Java belongs in any conversation involving Flash, Windows and distribution muscle. The ubiquity of Java has long been a Sun mantra regarding how the company would monetize its flagship technology. Java powered billions of devices and something as simple as a downloaded ringtone meant revenue, Sun has said. Meanwhile, in the post, Schwartz went on to hint about deals with Google and Microsoft enabled by the ubiquity of the Java runtime, and he noted that those deals were "big enough" to warrant a look at creating a new business model around Java as a distribution system.

"The revenues to Sun were also getting big enough for us to think about building a more formal business around Java's distribution power - to make it available to the entire Java community, not simply one or two search companies on yearly contracts," Schwartz said. And yet, in April a great engineering company known as Sun sold out to Oracle.

However, to the point of the Java app store, Schwartz added: "And that's what Project Vector is designed to deliver - Vector is a network service to connect companies of all sizes and types to the roughly one billion Java users all over the world. Vector (which we'll likely rename the Java Store), has the potential to deliver the world's largest audience to developers and businesses leveraging Java and JavaFX."

How will it work? Schwartz both asks and answers this in his post:

"Candidate applications will be submitted via a simple Website, evaluated by Sun for safety and content, then presented under free or fee terms to the broad Java audience via our update mechanism. Over time, developers will bid for position on our storefront, and the relationships won't be exclusive (as they have been for search). As with other app stores, Sun will charge for distribution - but unlike other app stores, whose audiences are tiny, measured in the millions or tens of millions, ours will have what we estimate to be approximately a billion users. That's clearly a lot of traffic, and will position the Java App Store as having just about the world's largest audience."

Sun's app store will be unique compared to more well-known application stores that focus on mobile applications. The Java app store will focus on the desktop. "Remember, when apps are distributed through the Java Store, they're distributed directly to the desktop - JavaFX enables developers, businesses and content owners to bypass potentially hostile browsers," Schwartz said.

Anyway, it's time. It's time we saw what Sun has in store with JavaFX. And we welcome the new opportunity Sun is creating for developers with Vector.  

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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