JavaFX looks to stake claim in RIA

Sun's latecomer technology vies with giants, including Microsoft, Adobe.

An anonymous blogger identified only as "geekycoder" lauded the technology: "Technically, JavaFX enables me to leverage [the] Java skill set and Java technology that I am more comfortable with to deliver a compelling RIA solution. Because synergy between JavaFX and Java is excellent and the fact that JavaFX is built on the Java platform means that I can ensure that I have one of the best and supportive platforms to work in. In addition, JavaFX will enable me to be more productive in making it easier and quicker to create RIA solutions," for Web 2.0.

First revealed at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco in May 2007, JavaFX still is a work in progress. The official JavaFX Web page describes the project as "a powerful client technology for creating rich Internet applications with immersive media and content across the multiple screens of your life." It features the JavaFX Script scripting language for building rich Internet applications for desktop, mobile, TV and other consumer platforms.

"JavaFX Script, the language of JavaFX, doesn't replace Swing, the core Java GUI toolkit, but provides an alternative way of programming that hopefully will bring Java technology to the masses," according to geekycoder.

A preview version of a software development kit for JavaFX for desktop applications, supporting Windows and Macintosh, was released late last month. ( InfoWorld has reviewed this SDK.) Further deliverables are planned. JavaFX for Desktop 1.0, featuring a profile for desktop and browser deployments and a general-release SDK, is due this fall. JavaFX for Mobile 1.0, adding mobile support, is planned for spring 2009 release. TV support also is planned.

The JavaFX runtime is to be distributed with the Java VM. Licensing plans for device manufacturers also are to be revealed next spring. When manufacturers license Java Micro Edition, they will get the JavaFX mobile runtime.

JavaFX offers plug-in capabilities similar to Flash and Silverlight but also has a standard runtime -- the Java Virtual Machine -- to run applications outside a browser, Lehrbaum said. Other plug-in technologies will enable developers to use existing tools such as NetBeans or design tools such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator with JavaFX.

With JavaFX, Sun looks to build on momentum including the presence of Java on more than 2 billion handsets. "JavaFX takes that momentum and the advantages we have with Java but makes it much easier to create rich interactive and immersive experiences," Lehrbaum said.

Java, he said, has had great capabilities but has been difficult to use. JavaFX Script offers a declarative scripting language for developers to build interfaces in the way that they think about them, Lehrbaum said. "It matches the way they think about interfaces in their head and is very intuitive," he said.

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