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Sun's JavaFX Platform Goes Live

It's been a long wait, but Sun Microsystems today began shipping version 1.0 of its JavaFX platform, the runtime and tools combo for content authors and Web developers building rich Internet applications (RIAs).

Built on and around Java, the JavaFX platform comprises a development environment, a production suite and a runtime library for the desktop.

The new runtime (JavaFX Desktop) provides all the libraries and APIs for text, graphics, animation, audio and video, explained Param Singh, Sun's senior director for Java marketing. It also contains a scene graph (used by vector-based graphics) so that developers can build applications leveraging these APIs and libraries.

The runtime will be distributed via the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), which is a subset of the Java Development Kit (JDK) that contains the core executables and files that constitute the standard Java platform. The JavaFX runtime will be available to any desktop running the JRE.

The runtime works "hand-in-hand" with a set of core capabilities from the latest update of the Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE) 6, Singh said. There's a revised applet structure, and a browser plugin that has been rewritten from the ground up so that developers can take a JavaFX application and embed it directly into a browser, he said.

This release also comes with a beta version of the JavaFX mobile runtime. JavaFX is based on what Octavian Tanase, Sun's senior director for the Java Platform group, calls a common set of APIs. "These are lightweight APIs, that, if developers design to the concept, will allow that application to work across mobile and other screens -- TV and other, because we deliver runtimes for each of those," he said. Sun is also providing an emulator, which allows devs to run their mobile JavaFX app in advance of delivery to the platform.

JavaFX has been architected to support different scripting languages, Tanase said, starting in this release with Sun's own scripting language, JavaFX Script. But there's also a JavaScript bridge designed to allow developers to provide deep integration with the browser and any JavaFX content. "The thing to keep in mind is that JavaFX is a platform," Tanase said. "And we will be supporting multiple languages over time."

JavaFX is aimed at content authors building rich user interfaces and Flash, rather than traditional developers," said Tim Bray, Sun's director of Web Technologies.

Designer and developer tools are also part of this release. There's a plugin for the Sun-sponsored open-source NetBeans integrated development environment (IDE), which was expected, but Sun is also providing a plugin for the Eclipse IDE. "There's a lot of Java development being done on the Eclipse platform," Singh said. "There are also some RIA technologies available on Eclipse, such as Adobe Flex and LZX from Lazslo. Our goal is to provide Eclipse developers with a choice."

"If someone has a Java app today, they can extend it to build a rich interface," Singh adds. "If they're starting a new RIA application, they can use the IDE to create a deeper integration into a Java application."

This release also includes the JavaFX Production Suite is a set of tools and plug-ins designed to improve production times for Web designers. "The vision here is to provide a seamless way to integrate the graphic and media assets that are essential for building a RIA," Singh said. "Today, especially on the Java platform, it's not as efficient as we would like."

The JavaFX Production Suite offers single-click conversion of other media formats to JavaFX and is designed to allow graphics assets from other design programs to be incorporated into JavaFX apps. The suite includes plugins for Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, for example, that allow graphic designers to collaborate more effectively with their coder counterparts, Singh said.

"Over time we will expand to reach visual designers who are using layout-based tools, such as Flash authoring," Tanase said. "We are committed to extending the reach of JavaFX and Java, but that's coming in 2009."

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based systems company introduced its entry into the RIA tools market at the 2007 JavaOne conference. Sun promised at this year's JavaOne to deliver the first version of the JavaFX Desktop by the end of this year, and JavaFX Mobile and JavaFX for TV by next February or March.

At the latter conference, Sun announced a deal to use On2 Technologies' video-compression tech (the video codex that's in Flash) in JavaFX. On2's Flix standard video editing tool, which allows developers to encode video for the JavaFX video file format, is available with this release, Singh said.

Sun is making full product details, along with 80-plus code samples and applications, tutorials, articles and documentation available on its JavaFX page here.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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