Oracle's ambitious plan for client-side Java

At JavaOne, Oracle announced a big initiative to revitalize Java on the desktop, the Web, and mobile devices. Can it follow through?

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To that end, Oracle offered the biggest eye-opener at JavaOne: a JavaFX-based game running on both an iPad and an Android tablet (which Oracle reps pathetically kept referring to as "a Linux-based device"). Sun had long battled to get Java running on iOS, without success, and the JavaOne demo wasn't quite that Holy Grail, either. Because of Apple's license restrictions, a stand-alone JVM isn't allowed on iOS. Instead, Oracle engineers had linked a private JVM as a resource inside a launcher app -- a clever hack, if an awkward one.

Oracle vice president Nandini Ramani was quick to point out that the iPad demo was more a proof of concept than anything else. "We want to hear from the community. If this is something you want to see, we're happy to make it a priority," he said.

Is it time to give Java a second look?
Do you want to see it? Or has that boat already sailed? Given all the other options available -- from .Net to native iOS and Android development to Flash/AIR to pure HTML5 and JavaScript -- why would anyone choose Java and JavaFX now, when Java has yet to prove itself as a broad client-side development platform?

One answer is that Java is a mature, rich, and powerful tool set. If Oracle can follow through on its plans to make modern Java available on a wider range of platforms, it could be one of the most effective cross-platform development tools available.

Another answer is that Java can be considered one of the most open platforms around. It's not wedded to any OS, hardware, or app store. The JDK is 100 percent open source, and at JavaOne, Oracle announced its intention to open-source still more Java technologies over the coming years, including JavaFX.

Of course, the biggest item in the negatives column is that Java is still run by Oracle. It's easy to get excited by big talk at a conference like JavaOne, but results are what matters, and Oracle has disappointed many times since acquiring Sun. I remain cautiously optimistic, but experience suggests the smart path is to remain skeptical.

This article, "Oracle's ambitious plan for client-side Java," originally appeared at Read more of Neil McAllister's Fatal Exception blog and follow the latest news in programming at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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