JavaFX SDK preview launches: Can Sun play the RIA game?

Sun Microsystems on Thursday will launch the JavaFX preview release as it aims to round up its bevy of Java developers to be a player in rich Internet applications.The preview release gives designers, web scripters and developers a peek at Sun's tools to make RIAs across multiple screens--mobile to PC and other devices.

Sun Microsystems on Thursday will launch the JavaFX preview release as it aims to round up its bevy of Java developers to be a player in rich Internet applications.

The preview release gives designers, web scripters and developers a peek at Sun's tools to make RIAs across multiple screens--mobile to PC and other devices. "We have Java in just about any device," said Jacob Lehrbaum, senior product line manager for JavaFX, who added that JavaFX is designed to "deliver content across all the screens of your life."

In May, Sun outlined its plans to launch JavaFX. According to executives, Sun's timeline looks like this:

  • July 31: Launch JavaFX preview;
  • Fall: JavaFX 1.0 launches;
  • Spring 2009: JavaFX Mobile;
  • Later in 2009: JavaFX for TV.

The JavaFX preview includes the software developer kit that includes runtime and compiler tools, 2D graphics and media libraries as well as APIs and sample code; NetBeans 6.1 IDE with JavaFX plug-in; Project Nile to export assets to Adobe's platform and Java runtime environment 6.

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The big question here is whether Sun can elbow its way into the RIA game where Adobe's platform is entrenched and Microsoft has Silverlight. Sun believes it can make an impact because Java is installed on millions of PCs and billions of mobile phones and devices.

Ed Burnette doesn't project JavaFx to be an Adobe killer:

Will JavaFX be enough to unseat Flash/Flex? At this point, I just don’t see it. Flex 3 is growing like gangbusters, and Adobe controls the whole tool chain. They have the workflow covered, and they have years of experience bridging the gap from designers to developers. More importantly, Adobe has earned the trust of those same designers and developers. It’s a shame, really, but after 10+ years of leaving Java applets to wither on the vine, it’s going to take many more years for Sun to prove that it understands rich internet applications and that it can deliver a compelling vision of the future. Tellingly, even the JavaFX home page doesn’t actually use JavaFX; it uses Ajax and Quicktime movies.

While Sun and Adobe plan on being RIA kingpins both are coming at it from different angles. Sun will start its JavaFX adoption curve with developers and then hope scripters and ultimately designers buy into the platform. Adobe has started with designers as evangelists and then moved in the opposite direction. If the RIAs bounce Sun's way the company will meet Adobe somewhere in the middle.

Param Singh, senior director of Java marketing at Sun, says the company is focusing on the RIA workflow to pitch JavaFX. Singh noted that there are 6 million Java developers and JavaFX "extends those developers to create RIAs. We're coming from a different core strength."

In reality, Sun probably has a long way to go to be synonymous with RIAs, but Singh says the company is in the game for the long haul. Sun will also follow customers and port JavaFX to any platform including Android and the iPhone.

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