Oracle upgrades standard Java, JavaFX

Enhancements include first delivery of SDKs for Mac OS X, along with garbage collection and virtual machine boosts

Oracle on Thursday is releasing updates to the standard edition of Java and the JavaFX rich client application platform, including the first delivery of the Java Development Kit and JavaFX Software Development Kit for Mac OS X. The latest enhancements for Java garbage collection and the Java Virtual Machine are featured as well.

The company is making available Java Platform, Standard Edition (Java SE) 7 Update 4 and JavaFX 2.1. Java developers, Oracle said, can download Oracle's JDK, which includes the JavaFX SDK for MacOS X from the Oracle Technology Network. Java SE 7 Update 4 and JavaFX 2.1 run on Windows, too. The company plans to release a consumer version of Java SE 7, complete with the Java Runtime Environment, for Mac OS X later this year.

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"It appears that Oracle is steadily making good on the promises of the road map outlined at JavaOne," analyst Al Hilwa, of IDC, said, referring to Oracle's Java technology conference held last fall in San Francisco. "It is important for Oracle to show steady momentum with this road map, and it is certainly good to see continued investment like the new JavaFX technology in Mac OS X from Oracle." Java, though, has been a problem on Mac systems lately, with the Flashback botnet serving as a Java-based attack against Macs.

"Oracle has aggressive plans for Java over the next few years and we are continuing to drive technical advancements across the platform," said Hasan Rizvi, senior vice president of Oracle Fusion Middleware and Java Products at Oracle, in a statement released by the company. "At JavaOne in 2011, we outlined our long-term road map for Java SE and JavaFX, and we are working closely with the Java community to meet our development milestones. With the upcoming Mac OS X port, we look forward to delivering simultaneous releases of the JRE across all major operating systems later this year, so all Java users will be able to take advantage of the latest features and security fixes."

Java garbage collection, which helps with memory management by reclaiming programming objects, is being improved in JDK. "The Java SE 7 Update 4 JDK includes the next-generation garbage collection algorithm, Garbage First (G1), which has been eagerly anticipated by the Java developer community. G1 provides predictable garbage collection even for very large applications," Oracle said in a statement. G1 is a server-style garbage collector, for multiprocessor machines with large memories, Oracle said.

Also key to Java SE 7 Update 4 are performance improvements to the JVM, boosting Oracle Fusion Middleware products. Update 4 merges performance enhancements from the JRockit JVM into the Java HotSpot JVM and OpenJDK, which is the open source implementation of Java SE. "Oracle is continuing its work to merge the Oracle Java HotSpot JVM and the Oracle JRockit JVM into a converged offering that leverages the best features of each of these leading virtual machines," Oracle said. Update 4 will be the first consumer release of Java 7 JRE, scheduled to be released as the default version on Java.com on May 1.

The OpenJDK Community, Oracle said, hosts development of Java SE 7 on Mac OS X and JDK 8, which is the prototype reference implementation of Java SE 8. Oracle has started the OpenJFX project as part of its plan to open-source the JavaFX platform.

JavaFX 2.1 introduces playback support for digital media stored in the MPEG-4 multimedia format containing J.264/AVC video and Advanced Audio Coding (AVC) audio. WebView support for JavaScript to Java method calls allow a user to render HTML/JavaScript. Also, users can allow JavaScript in WebView to make calls to Java APIs to offload specific operations to Java. Version 2.1 adds enhanced font rendering for modern LCDs with Windows-style LCD subpixel rendering. User interface enhancements in version 2.1 include controls for combo box, stacked chart, and applicationwide menu bar.

Oracle also is announcing a public early access for JavaFX Scene Builder, a visual layout tool that enables designing of UI screens by dragging and positioning UI components from a palette onto a scene. JavaFX is available for Windows and Mac OS X, while a developer preview for Linux also is being offered.

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