Sun Moves JavaFX Closer to Primetime

More than a year after it was announced, Sun is out with a beta version of the technology that it says will deliver on the 'write once/run anywhere' promise.
Sun Microsystems has finally released a software development kit (SDK) for JavaFX, two JavaOne conferences after it announced the rich client platform meant to take on Adobe's AIR and Flex platforms and Microsoft's Silverlight.

The release consists of three components: the SDK itself, a plug-in for the NetBeans integrated development environment (IDE) to help Java programmers build their JavaFX apps, and Project Nile, a bi-directional integration layer with Adobe Photoship and Illustrator.

The SDK has two sets of APIs, one for building applications that run across platforms, and one for building desktop applications. One of the main features of JavaFX is the ability to take an application running in a Web browser and drag it to the desktop, where it will run locally with the same functionality it had on the Web.

The SDK is not completed but the company hopes to have most of it done by the end of the year. For now, the SDK gives developers a chance to begin creating apps with it, study the tutorials and documentation and get up to speed on creating apps, particularly for multiple platforms.

"This is aimed at developers looking to deploy across multiple screens, looking to leverage the Java ubiquity," Param Singh, senior director of Java marketing at Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) told InternetNews.com.

Sun is relatively late with its offering, as Microsoft and Adobe have had Silverlight and AIR/Flex out for a while. Singh thinks Sun can make up for that by taking advantage of Java's wide deployment.

"Each platform has a core strength," said Singh. "Our strength comes from the ubiquity of the Java runtime, in the mobile area where we are pervasive, and in the six million Java developers who can extend their capabilities to provide Web resident apps and can do it in a faster time frame."

Architecting Cross-device content

When JavaFX was first introduced, Sun emphasized that this would be the realization of the original "write once/run anywhere" promise. Singh reiterated that promise. "We are architecting it to the idea of cross-device content, where developers can build applications to a common API, and if you write to that your app is deployable to any device capable of running JavaFX," he added.

Thom Theriault, chief technology officer for Malden Labs, a startup developing remote access to enterprise data applications, said JavaFX gave the company far more programmability than a combination of Adobe's Flash and Flex.

"We initially thought [Flash/Flex] would be easier to start with, but in the end it was harder to do [certain functions]," he said. "JavaFX gives us the advantage of tying into those tried and true Java APIs that are vital to our app. So while the tools are lacking, they are going to be there."

Nile is meant to provide "round-trip" workflow, so a designer can make art in Photoshop or Illustrator and save it in the same asset directory as the one programmers are using.

That way, the developers can pull the art right from the same directory, and if changes are made to the art, it's automatically updated in the application. It's a lot smoother than artists making changes and then mailing it to the programmers in e-mail, said Singh.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com.






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