Sun: Java ubiquity an advantage in RIA battle

Sun stresses ties between JavaFX and the base Java platform, and touts Java Community Process changes and SOA enhancements

Sun Microsystems is counting on the ubiquitous nature of Java to help its JavaFX technology compete in the rich Internet application (RIA) space against rivals Adobe Systems and Microsoft.

A browser plug-in for JavaFX will be featured in the Java SE (Standard Edition) 6 Update 10 release due this fall. Both Adobe, with its Flash platform, and Microsoft, with Silverlight, are offering plug-in platforms for rich Internet applications. But Sun plans to provide the industry-leading rich client with JavaFX, said Param Singh, Sun senior director of Java marketing. The Java runtime helps make this possible, he stressed during an interview at the JavaOne conference on Thursday afternoon.

"The Java runtime is on over 900 million desktops today," Singh said. Every month, there are 40 million downloads of updates to the Java runtime, he said. Additionally, there are more than 2.2 mobile phones with Java on them, not to mention Java's presence in 100 percent of Blu-ray devices, said Singh.

"The notion is, we will take JavaFX where the Java runtime is available," Singh said.

Sun's JavaFX plug-in will enable deployment of applications that can work either in or outside of the browser, Singh said. This ability to run applications inside or outside of a browser is similar to what Adobe is offering with its AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) software.

"In our product design, we have looked at all competing environments. But our focus remains to provide the best RIA," said Singh.

JavaFX, which was first revealed a year ago, features a client runtime for building rich Internet applications as well as the JavaFX Script scripting language. Runtimes for platforms such as the desktop, mobile device, and even televisions are planned.

Monetization of JavaFX will come via licensing and advertising opportunities, Singh said.

In other discussions at JavaOne, Sun officials detailed potential changes to the Java Community Process (JCP) for amending the Java platform, as well as plans to enhance the Sun SOA Platform.

Sun's dominant role in the JCP would be lessened a bit under a proposal put forth by the new chair of the program, Patrick Curran. The plan calls for no longer guaranteeing Sun a seat on two high-level executive committees, one of which oversees the Java Platform, Micro Edition and another that governs the Java Platform, Standard and Enterprise Editions of Java. There are 16 members on each committee, but Sun is the only one with rights to a guaranteed seat on these two boards, said Curran.

"I think that [situation] probably will change," he said. Discussions are being held on this issue now, but changes could take time.

Asked if Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz is concerned about Sun possibly losing the right to guaranteed seats, Curran said Schwartz has other things on his mind.

"The entire process of reform may take us a couple of years, but there are certainly things we could do in a period of months," Curran said. He cited planned reforms around openness and transparency, which include putting forth a formal process for submitting public comments on JCP proposals and having responses developed to these comments. Public mailing lists might be set up toward this end, Curran said.

Sun's control over Java is lessening. Sun, Curran said, is no longer the specification lead for the majority of Java Specification Requests (JSR) submitted to the JCP. JSRs encapsulate proposed changes to Java on many fronts. Sun also bowed recently to those who want OSGi supported in the upcoming version of Java SE, said Curran.

Sun offered Java up to open source in November 2006. The open-sourcing, however, does not eliminate the need for the JCP to oversee development of the Java platform, said Curran. Open source guarantees openness and transparency, but it does not provide for  the development of formal specifications, conformance tests, or the likelihood of competing implementations, he said.

Meanwhile, in June Sun plans to upgrade to its SOA package, Java Composite Application Platform Suite (CAPS). Version 6 of the suite will have capabilities to show unified subject views. These capabilities are derived from Sun's open source Project Mural, which focuses on master data management, Sun officials said. Project Mural unifies information about a customer, or perhaps a citizen or medical patient, to present a single view of the subject in question. 

CAPS also features the GlassFish application server, the Open ESB enterprise service bus, business process capabilities, and legacy adapters.  The upgrade will be called CAPS 6.

"[CAPS] is our SOA platform," said Mark Herring, Sun vice president of software infrastructure marketing.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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