Can JavaFX Make a Play for Rich Internet Apps?

With its new JavaFX technology for rich Internet applications, Sun Microsystems hopes to leverage the strength of the Java development base and Java's ubiquitous presence on devices to make a strong run in a race it has entered very late -- and where Adobe Systems and Microsoft have a huge head start.

If this competition were a race between Olympic runners, it might be broadcast like this:

"In Lane 1, we have Adobe with its Flash and attendant Flex technologies, downloaded millions of times and popular on high-profile sites like YouTube."

"In Lane 2, it's AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), the popular RIA technique used in countless Web sites."

"In Lane 3, its up-and-comer Silverlight, backed by software giant Microsoft and used by NBC's prominent Olympics Web site."

"And in Lane 4, we have Sun's JavaFX used by Web properties such as -- well, it's still in development."

[ The InfoWorld Test Center rates the preview version of JavaFX as promising but not yet competitive with Flash and Silverlight. See why. ]

Sun believes JavaFX has a strong chance because it doesn't see there being just one winner. "This isn't the type of market where only one technology is going to win," says Jacob Lehrbaum, senior product line manager for JavaFX. But Lehrbaum acknowledged the course will be tough: "Clearly, we do have to compete for developer mindshare."

Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey Hammond thinks Sun has a shot, especially in the burgeoning market for applications running on mobile devices: "I think Sun has the opportunity to catch up very quickly in that space."

"I would say that the JavaFX platform looks very good. It has a lot of potential," said Andres Almiray, a software developer at Oracle. "It probably should have been announced three, four, five years ago," Almiray said. "The good thing is that it's finally here."

An anonymous blogger identified only as "geekycoder" lauded the technology: "Technically, JavaFX enables me to leverage [the] Java skill set and Java technology that I am more comfortable with to deliver a compelling RIA solution. Because synergy between JavaFX and Java is excellent and the fact that JavaFX is built on the Java platform means that I can ensure that I have one of the best and supportive platforms to work in. In addition, JavaFX will enable me to be more productive in making it easier and quicker to create RIA solutions," for Web 2.0.

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