Sun’s JavaFX Enters Apollo, Silverlight Footrace

Sun Microsystems is previewing a new family of Java-based solutions for creating and deploying rich Internet applications (RIA) for use on mobile handsets, set-top boxes, PC desktops and anywhere else the Java Runtime Environment is deployed.

Sun previewed the solutions, organized under the name “JavaFX,” at its JavaOne Conference in San Francisco Tuesday.

The first product is JavaFX Mobile, which is a complete mobile phone software system available via OEM (originial equipment manufacturer) license to carriers, content owners and consumer electronic manufacturers. JavaFX will support all content and applications currently available across billions of Java-based devices in the world today, according to Sun.

New Language Born

In addition, Sun previewed JavaFX Script, which is a new scripting language targeted at creative professionals. It is the core of the JavaFX product family and will be available to the free and open source community via the GNU General Public License (GPL).

“With JavaFX, Sun is leveraging the security and pervasiveness of the world’s most widely deployed technology platform to allow creative professionals to easily author and deliver on any device,” said Rich Green, Sun Software’s executive vice president.

“This is a major step towards helping consumers access the best content on the Internet from every device, and a significant opportunity for Sun and its partners to deliver a whole new line of products,” he said.

Just for Java?

Despite Sun’s intention to make it easy for creative professionals to create applications with JavaFX, existing Java developers will likely be some of the first professionals to put it to work.

“I think there’s a high degree of curiosity about it and its capabilities, but I’ll have a better idea as to traction once folks being using it,” Stephon O’Grady, an analyst for RedMonk, told LinuxInsider.

Even if it ends being popular only with Java developers, that’s no small slice of the pie.

“When we look at our research data, Java is one of the most used languages, if not the most used language in enterprise IT these days,” Jeffrey Hammond, an application development analyst for Forrester Research, told LinuxInsider. “I do think, from what I understand of the technology, and assuming that Sun can execute and deliver, it’s going to be one of the key choices that folks have when they are evaluating RIA technologies.”

Existing and Emerging Technologies

Adobe’s Flash is widely used in RIAs today, as is Ajax-based open source solutions. Microsoft’s recently announced Silverlight is on the way, but it’s only available as a beta now.

“We’re starting to see a couple classes of RIA platforms emerge. You have the browser-based strategy which is primarily Ajax at this point. You have player-based strategies, and Flash and Silverlight are good examples,” Hammond explained. “I position JavaFX as one of two emerging outside of browser-based alternatives. So if you look at what Adobe is doing with Apollo — that’s designed to interact with machines that it’s running on, and now JavaFX is designed to do a similar sort of thing in terms of local access and cross-device capability.

“It’s going to be good to have competition in the market because it will make all the platforms better,” he added.

It’s a Race

Silverlight, Apollo, and JavaFX are all hitting the industry at the same time, and while their niches are still coming into focus, they are most definitely caught in a race toward official releases.

“The latest incarnations of these technologies are starting in a similar place,” Hammond noted.

“If Apollo gets delivered and Silverlight or JavaFX slips, that might affect the adoption rates,” he added.

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