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Sun plans JavaFX RIA tease for JavaOne

Microsoft and Adobe breathe easy

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Sun Microsystems is planning demonstrations but little by way of final code for its JavaFX rich-internet application challenge to Microsoft and Adobe Systems at next month’s JavaOne.

A year after announcing JavaFX, Sun said it will demonstrate three API “profiles” for development and deployment of JavaFX RIAs on millions of desktops, handsets and TVs.

Sun will also release software that’ll enable the elements of an application designed using tools like Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator to be pulled into Sun's NetBeans development environment and framework for hard coding.

A year into JavaFX, though, and with Microsoft and Adobe already putting development and runtime code into the hands of developers, it’s far from clear when a fully fledged release of the scripting language, JavaFX Script, or a planned designer are due.

In a briefing with press Tuesday, Sun made it clear final code won’t be released at JavaOne as Sun is still taking feedback from end users on features.

Sun explained the lack of code saying it's spent the past year working with designers to get the various elements of JavaFX right with the ability to import design elements from existing tools.

Sun’s goal is not to foist a new suite or new techniques on designers in the way Microsoft had with its Expression suite for its Silverlight player.

The release of the final JavaFX profiles, meanwhile, is being slowed because Sun is in lengthy talks with OEMs, service providers and regulators on APIs to be included. The desktop profile, JavaFX Desktop, is expected this year but there are no dates for JavaFX Mobile and JavaFX TV. Sun cautioned the duo are unlikely to appear simultaneously because of the different pace of talks, with JavaFX Mobile coming after JavaFX Desktop, and JavaFX TV coming "relatively quickly after that."

Eric Klein, Sun vice president of marketing, said: "As soon as we resolve a certain number of use cases they [profiles] will come out."

Once ready, the profiles will be made available with NetBeans and an SDK.

Outlining its thinking for JavaFX, it became clear there's still much to bake in terms of features and the architectural roadmap, and Sun has much work ahead of it convincing mobile and TV companies already using Java to make the leap of faith and back Sun's offering, when Adobe and Microsoft already have versions of AIR and Silverlight in the field.

Sun is pushing JavaFX on performance speed and cross-platform computing through the supposed ability for JavaFX to re-use the installed based of Java Virtual Machines on handsets, TVs and desktops.

Also, Sun's betting on the ability to build rich-client interfaces using less code than programming in Swing, meaning simpler and quicker programming of 2D, 3D, video and music content. Also, there's the potential ability to pull in elements designed in tools like Photoshop.

So far, Sun is making more or less the same noises as Adobe and Microsoft yet these companies have gone beyond talking and are delivering product. The only advantage Sun might have in all of this, is the fact that Adobe and Microsoft are still in the early uptake cycle for AIR, and Expression and Silverlight.

Ultimately - and who knows when this is going to happen - the idea is you'll be able to build applications and content using languages besides JavaFX Script, with applications running on desktops, mobile and TVs without being re-compiled.

But wait, you ask, what of existing Java platform specifications, like the tried-and-tested Java SE and Java ME, and things such as MIDP and CLDC - won't these clash or overlap, only adding to the existing levels of confusion over Java target architectures?

According to Sun, the JavaFX Mobile profile will "sit on top" of Java ME and then merge "over time". The company also imagines JVMs will be tuned to different devices. There's no time frame for any of this.

In the meantime, for the thousands of you already building mobile applications using Java ME, Sun stressed it's not discontinuing Java ME and is, in fact making additional investments, with news planned at JavaOne on Java ME.®

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