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Java mobile & embedded developer day Sun Microsystems is working on interoperability between design tools from Adobe Systems and its upcoming JavaFX tools for application developers building rich application interfaces and rich-internet applications (RIAs).

James Gosling, Sun vice president and fellow, told Register Developer that Sun is working to ensure interoperability - rather than provide its own design tools.

"We are putting a lot of effort into interoperability with the Adobe tools - a lot of the Adobe tools are wired into the neurons of the artists of the world," he said. "We are not trying to be a completely isolated island that has all the tools for everybody."

Unveiled last year at Sun's JavaOne, JavaFX currently comprises the Swing-based JavaFX Script and JavaFX Mobile.

JavaFX is not yet complete, and there's no word on when the suite will become available. Already, it's come in for criticism as "too little, too late".

The rationale for JavaFX is to help content creators and developers work together when building interactive applications and interfaces running on devices including mobile phones, browsers and Blu-ray disc players.

The JavaFX suite will deliver workflows for content creators and software programmers that are intended to be more effective than the traditional waterfall-based method of team collaboration.

According to Gosling, analysis shows many tools generally force developers to use a waterfall-based workflow for design and development, with content or code handed off. This has problems as changes down the line mandate changes several steps back in either the design or development process.

A big problem in digital content is things like artwork change more frequently than the code, yet changes in that artwork require re-coding, creating additional coding work and building in delay.

Gosling said Sun's JavaFX tools are "turning the workflow sideways". He did not provide details but said: "Our architecture is more like the coder does this part and the artist does this part, and then the artist can do the plugging in [of the design] themselves. They can update the artwork and the [developer] guy can update the code, and they are talking to the tool together. It's not conditional on the other."

JavaFX would be for both software programmers and creative types, he said.

This sounds encouraging, but the jury remains out on Sun's ability to deliver a compelling suite in terms of features and functionality. Sun's track record is spotty at best; last month, for instance, it announced the incorporation of its most recently lauded tools effort - Java Studio Creator, plugged heavily prior to its launch - into NetBeans, and that it was stopping development of its own integrated Java tools suites.

This time, at least, Sun looks like going straight to open source. "In the software development world, it's pretty much assumed all tools will be free," Gosling said. "We will almost certainly do the open source thing [on JavaFX tools]".

Adobe and Microsoft are also rolling out tools and runtimes to create rich interfaces and RIAs that are also designed to close the lingering gap between developers of content and those who turn that content into software.

Unlike Sun, Microsoft, is trying to own the entire design and code stack - witness the combo of Silverlight, Microsoft Expression, for content creators, and Visual Studio for application developers.

The problem for Microsoft, though, is products from Adobe such as Illustrator and Photoshop are staples among creative types, while Adobe's ColdFusion and Dreamweaver segue into software development. Expression is relatively unknown and unproven while Visual Studio is comparatively unused by those creating media content.®

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