Sun offers JavaFX road map

Company also touts cloud effort Project Hydrazine; Neil Young appears at JavaOne conference

Meet this year's JavaOne spotlight technology, the same as last year's JavaOne spotlight technology.

Sun Microsystems executives at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco on Tuesday hailed the potential of the JavaFX RIA (rich Internet application) development and deployment platform, which had been formally unveiled at JavaOne in May 2007. Company executives set forth some firm product delivery dates for JavaFX and touted a couple of development projects: Project Hydrazine for cloud computing and Project Insight for collecting feedback on application usage.

To show Java's prominence in multimedia, rock icon Neil Young made an appearance onstage to promote his video and music catalog offering based on Java and Blu-ray technology. A Sun official also briefly commented on Sun's predicament in trying to put Java on the Apple iPhone, leaving the ball in Apple's court to help make that happen.

With JavaFX, Sun is set to take on rival platforms in the growing RIA space. Rival technologies such as Microsoft's Silverlight and Adobe's Flash platform also seek dominance.

"We're taking on the marketplace," with Java, said Sun president and CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

JavaFX enables application deployment across multiple types of interfaces, including devices. A demonstration showed a JavaFX application being moved right from the browser onto the desktop.

"In fact, [JavaFX] runs on all the screens of your life," said Rich Green, Sun executive vice president of software. JavaFX features components such as a runtime, a media codec framework, and the JavaFX Script scripting language.

Sun set forth a road map for JavaFX:

* In July, Sun will open the JavaFX Desktop SDK Early Access Program

* In the fall, JavaFX Desktop 1.0 ships.

* In the spring of 2009, the JavaFX Mobile and TV 1.0 variants will ship.

Although Sun could have its work cut out for it positioning JavaFX against rival technologies, a Java developer in the audience was impressed.

"I have not had the chance to look at it [before now], but after these demos they showed, it's definitely something that I want to look at in the future," said developer Roland Esquivel, a software engineer at defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corporation.

"It's sexy," Esquivel said, citing high-definition video and audio capabilities. "It’s something that will catch people's eyes and definitely get their attention," he said.

Sun officials also detailed Project Hydrazine, for cloud-based services. "It allows you to bring new services together, make them available, [and] provide them in a running cloud environment," Green said. Hydrazine is due after the release of JavaFX.

Another project on the horizon, Project Insight, enables JavaFX developers to communicate with their audiences via instrumented user action data. It will enable development of new strategies for ad placement.

The instrumentation service will allow developers and other third parties to collect information about how many people are using their applications and also send and receive information about patches and upgrades. Sun says it will be anonymous, meaning it will not collect personally identifiable information about end-users.

"It will be free for some portion of the developer community, and for some portion of commercial users, it will probably not be free," Schwartz said.

Sun also brought up executives from Amazon and Sony Ericsson, who showed their Java-based multimedia devices, such as Amazon's Kindle book-reading device.

Young, meanwhile, showed off a Blu-ray-based music catalog. He said he had been unable to do this with previous technologies, including DVD. The product features updating capabilities via the Internet.

"You can put your disk in there and the Internet will tell you that there's new material available," Young said. 

During the post-keynote press conference, Green gave a progress report on Sun's ongoing quest to put Java on the iPhone, something that Apple has not publicly, at least, supported.

Sun is well along its way in creating the technology to enable Java to run on the phone, Green said. But he deferred to Apple, which governs which platforms can be distributed with the iPhone. It is Apple's right to decide this, Schwartz added.

Sun officials also repeated mantras about consumer technologies overtaking the enterprise, as they had in a presentation last month.

"Businesses used to drive the technology adoption, but today it is all about consumers," Green said. Sun plans to leverage JavaFX in the consumer application space.

Sun also showed JavaFX running on an Android emulator. This was not a product announcement by Sun, which has no plans around Android at this time, according to the company. The demonstration was intended to show the portability of JavaFX to other platforms.

Android is a new mobile application platform backed by Google and others.

(James Niccolai of IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate, contributed to this report.)

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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