Sun Microsystems released Java Standard Edition 6 Update 10 on Oct. 21 and Danny Coward, chief architect of Sun’s Client Software Group, checked in for an interview with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft to talk about the future of the Java platform.
How is the role of Java changing and what are we seeing for the future of the Java platform?
I think what we are seeing in general is a rapid rise in the number of rich client applications focused on consumers. Businesses and consumers alike are looking for attractive and intuitive ways to interact and Java originated as a platform to enable that. Now that Java is deployed so widely, I think Java’s role has broadened significantly as a platform for consumer content. Many of the drivers for continued evolution of the platform come from developers who want to create this new generation of rich content focused on consumers. This rich content consists of applications that are attractive, “self-guiding” and self-explanatory, as well as applications that visually entertain and present information to allow interactions in a playful and enriching manner.
We have seen Sun focus and do well with the enterprise side of Java and now it appears Sun is shifting to the client side. Can you tell me more about that?
We spent many years building out the core Java platform both as a base for server-side technology, and focused on enterprise GUIs. In the last three or four years, the number of applications being created for consumers has overtaken the number of applications being created for use within the enterprise. Thus, we have focused our development efforts on reshaping Java for rich client application development and deployment. For development, we’ve added a whole new language and programming environment called JavaFX. For deployment on the desktop, we’ve really worked hard to make the underlying JRE (Java Runtime Environment) much more lightweight, nimble, and better able to run visually intensive applications-all things needed by consumer-facing rich client applications.
You just released Java SE 6 Update 10-how does this announcement fit in with Sun’s overall Java strategy?
Java SE 6 Update 10 is a release of the highly popular Java Runtime for the desktop and browser and is a product of how we are reshaping Java for rich client application development and deployment. This release has those deployment and runtime attributes I just described: quick to download, quick and easy to install, quick to update from an older version, quick to start applications running on it, much faster graphical performance, and a new look and feel for cross-platform applications.
What are some of the new key features and changes in the release, including what you can do now that you couldn’t do before?
There are several, but the key highlight features are:
JavaKernel: This shrinks the initial download of the JRE from 14.5MB to 4.5MB-a huge savings in download time and time spent unpacking the run-time. The initial ‘kernel’ download contains just enough of the run-time to run typical GUI applications-i.e. typical consumer applications on the desktop or browser-and then in parallel the rest of the platform is installed once that initial application is up and running. This results in a much quicker download and a much quicker start to get the application up and running.
More Java SE 6u10 Features That Benefit Developers
New Plug-in Architecture: This release rewrites the code that connects the JRE into the browser. Now applets run in their own process instead of in the same process as the browser, so it’s much more robust and scalable. You can do super-neat stuff like drag the applet out of the Web page and out of the browser so it’s in its own window (it just keeps running), and if you like, you can close the browser and the applet keeps running.
If you close the applet, you get the choice to create a shortcut on your desktop so you can just start the applet directly from the desktop next time. So with this new architecture, you just pull applets out of Web pages onto your desktop with one drag and drop.
JavaQuickStarter: This technology does the prework to keep the JRE files loaded into the computer’s desk cache so that applets and applications start up much, much quicker. Unlike other programs, which keep heavyweight background processes running to achieve a similar effect, this is a much lighter-weight option of getting much quicker startup time for the JRE.
We have also turned on native graphics acceleration on [Windows] Vista, and have a new cross-platform look and feel called Nimbus for developers who like their applications to have a distinctive and uniform look no matter which OS (Windows, Solaris, Linux) they are on.
How can developers and consumers benefit from these features?
Consumers and developers will benefit by having their Java applications start up much quicker. These applications-especially the ones that use shading, animations, translucency and shaped windows-are going to perform very smoothly and quickly. The initial download or update of the JRE if they already have it will be quick and easy.
They’ll be able to pull applets off Web pages and drop them right onto their desktop to use later, or offline, instead of having a complicated install experience, as with other technologies.
How does this release tie in with upcoming launch of JavaFX 1.0?
As well as being a great release for developers who write rich client applications in Java, this is the underpinning of the upcoming JavaFX 1.0 desktop release. In support of the additional designer-focused programming model we have created in JavaFX, this release ensures that JavaFX applications have nimble, lightweight run-time underneath them, and one that is ready for the kind of wonderful graphically rich applications we expect JavaFX developers and designers to create.