The big news today was that Java is going to be released for free under the GPL license. This comes hot off the heals of Adobe's decision to open source their ActionScript Virtual Machine (my thoughts here), the core part of the Flash Player. While both of these announcements are unrelated, I think both are very good for Rich Internet Applications.
One of the main concerns for many people in this new, standards-based world, is that the Rich Internet Technologies that exist are largely proprietary. Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation isn't open, Flash player is still largely closed, though ActionScript is well-positioned to become the ECMA standard implementation for the 4th revision. OpenLaszlo provides an open source solution, but if you go the Flash route, you're still stuck to proprietary technology.
Java has always tried to be the write once, run everywhere solution, and it made a lot headway. There are supposedly 5 million Java developers out there, and it runs on everything from servers to mobile devices. As a Rich Internet Application solution however, it has always lacked a little bit. It was difficult to build compelling user interfaces with Java, and because it came before the web really took off, it never quite meshed with web developers. As new and more interesting technologies appeared, Java took a back seat quietly riding along powering big parts of the web from behind the curtains.
But this announcement should bring a healthy jolt to the Java community and revitalize Java as a platform at just the right time. Eclipse's Rich Client Platform continues to make strides, and I hope is one of the main beneficiaries of a new, open Java. Between Flash, and Windows Presentation Foundation, there is starting to be a lot more interest in applications that leverage the web, but are available offline and can make use of the power that we have heavily invested in on our client machines.
Java is well positioned for a resurgence because of their strong developer community and their history as a platform. This step could help bring Java into the new world and make it a rallying point for developers who want an open source solution do deliver Rich Internet Applications. I also hope it encourages other providers to open up more. We got a glimpse that Adobe is willing to consider that, and I hope this adds to that conversation within the company.