JavaFX Faces off Against Adobe, Microsoft

Sun Microsystems joins Microsoft and Adobe in the RIA race with the launch of its JavaFX runtime, platform and development tools.

Earlier This month, Sun Microsystems Inc. officially joined the rich Internet application (RIA) fray, with the launch of JavaFX 1.0. JavaFX consists of the JavaFX Development Environment compiler, libraries and runtime tooling, the JavaFX Production Suite for managing assets and workflow, and the JavaFX Desktop runtime environment.

Developers can craft apps using JavaFX Script, a declarative scripting language for rich interface development. Tooling includes plug-ins for the NetBeans and Eclipse IDEs, and plug-in filters for Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator design software.

JavaFX 1.0 joins Microsoft Silverlight 2 and the Adobe stack of Flash, Flex and Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) as the third major RIA offering. Many industry watchers are skeptical of the late entry, but Michael CotŽ, industry analyst for RedMonk, says JavaFX enjoys some of the same advantages that have made Silverlight a success. "As with Silverlight, JavaFX has the huge advantage of an existing developer community -- namely Java," he says.

JavaFX is designed to run either inside or outside of a Web browser. Systems equipped with the Java Standard Edition 6 Update 10 (JRE) can run JavaFX apps. The JavaFX Mobile runtime, expected in the spring of 2009, will enable app development for handheld devices and smartphones.

Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz points to Java's open source heritage and the ability of connected JavaFX apps to run beyond the constraints of a browser. "I'd argue that's the single most important feature of JavaFX and the new Java platform," he says. "What we hear from developers is that they're having a hard time seeing browsers as anything but hostile territory. If you don't own your own traffic, you can't own your own business. If you're always reliant on somebody else to take the tickets before [customers] enter the theater, they're probably going to be in a better position to dictate which movie gets watched."

Silverlight 3 Hints

Don't sleep on Silverlight 3. In a November blog post, Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Division, revealed that the next version of Silverlight will add support for MPEG-4 and H.264 encoded video, as well as graphics hardware acceleration and enhanced 3-D display capability.

Also promised: rich data-binding support in Visual Studio and Visual Web Developer Express. No release date is set, but Silverlight 3 could ship around the middle of 2009. A mobile version of Silverlight 2 is expected next year as well.

On the open source side, the Moonlight implementation of the Silverlight 1.0 runtime for Unix and Linux went beta this month. The final version of Moonlight 1.0 is expected in January 2009.

-- M.D.

MAXing out
Adobe Systems Inc. has been busy with RIA updates of its own. The company in November rolled out a swath of new tools and technologies at its annual Adobe MAX user conference.

Adobe released Windows and Mac versions of AIR 1.5 packaged with the open source WebKit HTML engine and "SquirrelFish" WebKit JavaScript interpreter. A Linux version is expected by January. The company also unveiled the Flash Media Interactive Server 3.5 and Adobe Flash Media Streaming Server 3.5, and previewed Flash Catalyst, an Eclipse-based professional interaction design tool (formerly code-named "Thermo"). Also on display was Adobe Flex Builder 3.0 (code-named "Gumbo") with enhancements to the core IDE, debugger and editor.

Adobe also unveiled its CoCoMo Platform as a Service offering, which combines Flex client components, a hosted services infrastructure and a simple dev model. CoCoMo allows real-time collaboration around .PDF files using Acrobat 9, Adobe Reader 9 and

Adobe has tuned Flex Builder to appeal more to Windows developers, allowing them to add a Flex front-end to data-centric .NET apps. Adobe Technical Evangelist Ben Forta showed MAX conference attendees how Flex Builder client-side code can interact with Microsoft C# via the Adobe Action Message Format, which is based on the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).

Said Forta: ".NET developers want to build applications with rich Internet experiences, and they haven't had a viable client technology."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is the Editor in Chief of Redmond Developer News. John Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley.