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JavaFX Launches in Uncertain Times

Sun Microsystems today officially announced the launch of its JavaFX runtime, platform and development tools for rich Internet application (RIA) development. JavaFX consists of the JavaFX Development Environment compiler, libraries and runtime tooling; the JavaFX Production Suite for managing assets and workflow; and the JavaFX Desktop runtime environment. Developers craft applications using the declarative JavaFX Script.

Sun officials also announced JavaFX tooling plug-ins for the Eclipse and NetBeans IDEs, as well as plug-in filters for Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator design software. The plug-ins enable JavaFX developers and Adobe Creative Suite designers to collaborate on common files, much the way .NET developers can share XAML-based projects between Visual Studio and Expression Blend.

"It lets you take your illustrations and graphics and all the richness...and export into JavaFX format. You get a two-way workflow," Param Singh, Sun senior director of Java marketing, told me. "Initially, the NetBeans plug-in will be somewhat more feature-rich than Eclipse. We are looking to reach [feature] parity in the spring."

JavaFX is designed to run either inside or outside of a client Web browser. As John Waters reports, systems equipped with the Java Standard Edition 6 Update 10 can run JavaFX apps. The JavaFX Mobile Runtime, expected in the spring of 2009, will enable app development for handheld devices and smartphones.

JavaFX 1.0 joins Microsoft Silverlight 2, released in October, and the Adobe stack of Flash, Flex and Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) as the third major RIA offering. While some industry watchers are skeptical of the late entry, Michael Cote, industry analyst for Redmonk Inc, said JavaFX enjoys a key advantage.

"As with Silverlight, JavaFX has the huge advantage of an existing developer community -- namely Java," Cote said. "What comes with that community is a strong understanding and connection to application development and services and back-ends that they require. That community is heavily geared toward Web UI'ed applications now and have been without a GUI layer for a long time."

Peter O'Kelly, principal analyst for O'Kelly Consulting, is less sanguine.

"I believe the best-case scenario for JavaFX is niche status within strongly Java-focused organizations," O'Kelly said. "It may be great technology in many respects, but the odds are against JavaFX reaching anything close to the ecosystem momentum Adobe Flash Player has and Microsoft Silverlight is building -- and of course Sun is not in a position to invest a lot in trying to change that scenario.

O'Kelly is referring to Sun's November announcement that it will lay off up to 6,000 employees over the next year, a reduction that could ultimately account for more than 15 percent of Sun's total workforce. Sun's stock price has also been battered, falling below $4 per share from about $20 a year ago.

Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz argued that Sun's financial struggles have little to do with JavaFX's prospects for success.

"It's important not to confuse the global financial crisis and its impact on Sun's high-end systems business, with our strategy to build out and to continue to develop our market opportunity," Schwartz told RDN in an interview. "The Java platform today is our most financially successful software platform at Sun. It's a very profitable enterprise. [JavaFX] will simply accelerate that."

Do you intend to give JavaFX a close look, and could it sway your dev shop from other RIA alternatives? E-mail me at [email protected] and let me know what you think of Sun's RIA effort.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/04/2008 at 1:15 PM

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