Sun unveils JavaFX (and ID dog go home)

Wow! Wednesday's IT Blogwatch: in which Sun launches it's Silverlight killer. Not to mention how not to tell an Idaho dog to go home...

Paul Krill reports:

At the JavaOne conference in San Francisco, Sun will roll out a Java-based product family called JavaFX, which covers Java development from the desktop to the Web to mobile devices. It features a new scripting variant of the Java, called JavaFX Script. JavaFX is a line of products focused on opportunities in the consumer communications market, including desktops, mobile clients, and TVs. The first product release is JavaFX Mobile, a software system for mobile devices.


JavaFX Script centers on content creation and leverages the high-volume distribution of Java ... While most scripting languages are oriented to building out Web pages, JavaFX Script focuses on user experiences on the interface and particularly on things that are highly animated ... [it] leverages 2D graphics APIs in the Swing GUI toolkit ... will be open sourced.


Sun officials acknowledged that JavaFX bears a similarity to enhanced graphics capabilities offered in the new Microsoft Silverlight platform. But [James Gosling, a Sun vice president and Sun Fellow who is considered the father of Java] added that Silverlight differs in that it is mostly focused on video-streaming. Formerly referred to by the codename, F3, the JavaFX platform could draw attention from AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) programmers. AJAX has grown as a popular technique for building Web pages.

Sun's Jonathan Schwartz "blogs" it:

What's JavaFX? It's a software product from Sun that allows any consumer electronics manufacturer to accelerate the delivery of Java/Linux based devices, from phones to set tops and dashboards and everything else imaginable. Without fear of format lock-in or disintermediation from a competitor. JavaFX is a product (not simply a technology), built on Java Standard Edition (the Java platform running on your desktop computer), that unites billions of Java SE and Java Micro Edition devices (Java Micro Edition is what runs on most of the world's mobile handsets).

JavaFX provides a complete and fully open source platform for device manufacturers, content owners and service operators wanting to reach consumers with interactive content - and control their own destiny.

In the eyes of the consumer, devices are converging - where you want to watch a movie, play a game or connect with friends ... presents a less interesting question, today, than when. You can watch a movie in your living room, on a big flat panel display. But when you leave for work, you'd prefer to use your mobile to watch the last 15 minutes on the subway. On the way to work, an advertiser might want to reach you on a billboard or taxitop, or insert an ad into the video stream you're watching. And once at work, you might want to join a fan network or write a review (on your lunch break, of course). Consumers (like advertisers and operators) want the experience to be simple, secure and coherent. And device independent.

Sound familiar? It is - this was the original vision behind the Java platform - Write Once, Run Anywhere. For software. And with the convergence of media and application formats, and the rise of open source software ... the market seems ready.

Duncan Riley comments:

The announcement follows the recent well received launch of Microsoft’s Silverlight, and as an offering will compete directly against AJAX as well.


My immediate thoughts are that what we are seeing here is a game of catch-up by Sun. The object-oriented applications programming language that is Java was once the cool kid on the block, a base from which a new generation of applications would be launched, taking over our desktops. And yet it never happened. The new product, with its focus on mobile technology presents the potential of dealing Sun back into the application game in a big way if it’s well received today by developers.

Mary Jo asks if it's, "Really a Microsoft Silverlight killer?":

It's hard to say, as Sun was pretty vague about exactly what JavaFX will look like and do, other than to say the platform will be built on top of Java SE, the Java Platform Standard Edition.


Both JavaFX and Silverlight are target the Rich Internet Application ... market. Microsoft has a plethora of development and media-authoring tools targeting Silverlight available either in final or beta form. The "content-authoring tool" that Sun is planning to develop around JavaFX Script for creative professionals is "coming soon," Sun execs said on Tuesday.


Both Microsoft and Sun have a lot of work to do to turn their RIA strategies into reality. I feel like Microsoft has more tangible deliverables — as well as a more solid distribution plan — for Silverlight than Sun has for JavaFX. In some ways, Sun's JavaFX fannouncement elt more to me like Sun's to reset Java and get the platform back on track than to break new ground.

Ryan Stewart wonders, "Can you build an RIA platform without designers?":

That’s the question Sun seems to be asking the world ... The gaping void in this news is that JavaFX doesn’t really come with a designer story. Sure, Java developers have an “easier” way to write Swing interfaces, but when your starting point has a degree of difficulty of 900, “easier” is a relative term.

Without the designer story this thing is dead in the water. There may be some traction in the mobile world (that’s where it seems to be mostly targeted) but actually building desktop or web applications? Doesn’t seem compelling for anyone.

Mike Potter agrees:

Java developers now have a native option for developing RIAs, although one that continues to have some of the same problems that Java's already have (namely that it doesn't look that great, that there aren't great tools that integrate with industry standard design tools). Great user experiences don't come from software developers alone, and creating a new scripting language that makes it easier for Java developers doesn't mean that they'll be creating great new Java applications immediately. One of the reasons that Flash based RIAs work so well is because entire teams with various skills can use similiar products to deveop them. Designers can work closely with developers and user experience experts to build out great applications, and they currently use Adobe tools to build these. Developers that I've worked with in the past didn't create great user experiences, regardless of the language that they were using. They put red and green buttons in the UI, waiting for the designers to finalize the look of the application.

Microsoft does seem to get it - they're creating a new set of tools (Expression) that appeal to designers in addition to their Silverlight offering. Sun seems to be missing that critical piece.

As does phreaks over at Channel 9:

Great, just what we need... I have enough issues with Flash/Shockwave versioning already, now let's throw in the Sun JVM just to mix things up a lil bit ... apps written in Java are 2nd class.

I have yet to see a user Interface written in Java that isn't really awful. Take the Vignette IDE for example. if I had a nickel for every hundred line of code lost due to the app crashing, well then I would be retired today.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a total java hater, I just think that as far as UI's go, it's slow, clunky and prone to crashing.

Peter O'Kelly's also not a Java fan:

The way to make Java more successful may be to use a different language :)

Buffer overflow:

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Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at

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