Sun Delivers JavaFX Preview

JavaFX is the RIA technology from Sun. Sun is behind others in the RIA space, including Adobe and Microsoft, but is looking to make up for lost time through its expertise in the Java community.

Sun Microsystems is rolling out the preview release of JavaFX, its rich client platform for building rich Internet applications.

Sun made the announcement July 31 and made the JavaFX Preview release available here.

The JavaFX Preview release provides Web scripters, designers and Java developers with a preview of the runtime and tools needed to create RIAs on the Java platform. Developers can download the JavaFX Preview release, explore the code samples and tutorials, start writing JavaFX applications and provide their feedback to Sun, said Jacob Lehrbaum, senior product line manager of JavaFX for Sun.

Although Sun might be considered late to the RIA party, where both Adobe and Microsoft have a head start in providing both RIA technology and tools to enhance designer/developer workflow, Sun officials said the company is relying on its strength with Java developers to advance JavaFX.

"We'll start by leveraging our solution around the Java community," said Param Singh, senior director of Java marketing for Sun. "How do you get Web scripters to work with developers? Other RIA platforms haven't really addressed this."

However, Sun is attempting to, Singh said.

Asked whether he thought Sun's entry into a space dominated by Adobe with an aggressive Microsoft on the chase is too late to make a difference, Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey Hammond said:

"I don't think they are too late to the party. Let's also not forget that we'll see a final version of Microsoft's Silverlight 2.0 later in the fall too. Even though we've seen rapid adoption of RIA technologies over the past year, we're still just crossing out of the early adopter phase into the mainstream of IT adoption. There are still challenges that existing solutions need to improve on -- accessibility and browser integration are spotty across frameworks, search engine optimization is still a challenge, integrating analytics is a pain, and robust end-to-end security is still pretty much a developer's responsibility. There's still plenty of room for Sun to innovate with JavaFX. And while Ajax and Flex-based RIAs are pretty well established on the desktop it's still a wide open scramble for mobile devices.""

Michael Cote, an analyst with RedMonk LLC agrees with Hammond, suggesting that Sun is a late entry but it may not matter if the company plays its cards well. Said Cote:

""They are late to the party for sure. Nonetheless, the party is just getting started. Adobe has a clear lead and Microsoft is coasting on the -we're Microsoft' sentiment effectively and catching up quickly. Luckily for all of them, the future of the UI layer is up for grabs now at all levels: no one's really sure what's going on with purely web-based UIs and the efforts of those and others have slowly started to win over the web/Ajax only mind-share that's existing for years. Each of the RIA Big Three needs to start driving developers of all sorts to their pools -- Sun has an interesting advantage with the massive Java community, thought Adobe has been circling around that community extremely effectively.""

Lehrbaum said JavaFX is the rich client platform for building RIA and content across a variety of different screens-PC, mobile, TV and other consumer devices. JavaFX can allow developers to quickly and easily build high-impact, immersive RIAs that combine two-dimensional and three-dimensional graphics, high-fidelity audio and video, and animation, all while leveraging the power and functionality of the existing Java platform, he said.

The JavaFX Preview release consists of the following components: The JavaFX Preview SDK (software development kit), which provides the JavaFX compiler and runtime tools, 2-D graphics and media libraries to create highly interactive applications for desktop and browser, as well as tutorials, API documentation and sample code; the NetBeans 6.1 IDE (integrated development environment) with integrated JavaFX plug-in, which provides a development environment to build, preview and debug JavaFX applications; Project Nile, a tool that exports creative assets from Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to JavaFX applications; and the JRE (Java Runtime Environment) 6 Update 10 beta, which delivers a runtime with a new browser plug-in that provides the ability to drag a live running applet out of a Web browser and dynamically transform it into an application running on the desktop, Singh said.

"The designer/developer workflow issue is an absolutely critical one to solve," he said. "Project Nile is only the first step. Our initial target is Web scripters and we're also working on an authoring tool that over time will allow designers to get involved."

Singh said there are third-party vendors who can also provide this capability, but that professional design tools are a longer-term goal for the JavaFX project. However, Sun will provide such tooling, whether it creates it itself, partners with another provider or delivers an alternate solution, Lehrbaum said.

"With this announcement, Sun is delivering on the commitment it made in May at JavaOne to deliver a preview of JavaFX to the RIA community," said Ken Wallich, vice president of JavaFX at Sun. "Only the Java platform is pervasive enough to allow developers to build and deploy RIAs across desktops and browsers on more than 800 million PCs, as well as billions of mobile phones and devices. JavaFX builds upon this foundation to deliver immersive and rich presentation capabilities to the existing Java platform."

The JavaFX Preview release is designed to help early adopters become familiar with JavaFX and is not yet being offered for commercial applications.