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Sun's JavaFX to hoover-up user data

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JavaOne Sun today announced the yet-to-launch JavaFX programming language will gather data on end-users activities to help developers monetize software, by selling ads for instance.

The company's Project Insight will see "instrumentation" added to PCs, mobiles and Blu-ray devices that run JavaFX, which feed data back through a special data stream to a hosted service. Codenamed Project Hydrazine, the service is run by Sun for the benefit of third parties.

Sun, meanwhile, also promised a JavaFX Desktop SDK will be available in early access in July, JavaFX Desktop 1.0 this autumn, and JavaFX Mobile 1.0 and JavaFX TV1.0 in spring 2009.

Hydrazine's core features will include instrumentation"and the addition of "FX-type capabilities" to Sun's existing online services. This will create a "new strategy for ad placement," Sun software chief Rich Green told JavaOne, the company's annual gig in San Francisco.

In a nod to where this is really being targeted, Green demonstrated JavaFX running on the emulator for Android, the mobile platform from online ads powerhouse Google.

A Sun spokesperson later said this was not a product announcement and "Sun has no plans around Android at this time".

Eager to head of concerns about invasion of privacy associated with Insight and Hydrazine, Green and chief executive Jonathan Schwartz said data would be aggregated and anonymized. Also, they said, Sun would not own data.

"We are simply a technology provider," Schwartz told JavaOne. He said the Java FX platform would enable developers to escape the clutches of a hostile operating system, browser or technology provider. No names mentioned, but that's Microsoft, Microsoft and, er, Microsoft. With Google maybe thrown in for good measure.

After Green's keynote, Schwartz told press that Hydrazine could also update user's applications in the way Sun updates Java through Sun.com, "providing runtime services for others to build compelling services that hook into a variety of outlets."

As ever there's the question of how Sun expects to make money from its software and planned service. In this case, Schwartz said Hydrazine would be free for some developers while for "some portion of the commercial community, probably not."

Schwartz indicated Hydrazine would be useful to developers in the broadest sense, meaning individuals and also big-name application and content providers such as cell phone company Verizon.

Providers such Verizon are big Sun customers when it comes to licensing Java - a nine figure business for Sun - and use of Sun's hardware and software to run and provision services.

Whether Hydrazine can be of any realistic value to advertisers in anonymized form is open to question. Also, it's only a mater of time before either Sun yields or turns a blind eye to making data identifiable or some enterprising advertiser makes it possible to identify individuals.

A bigger problem for Sun in the short-term is getting JavaFX - the building block for Hydrazine and Insight - out the door. A year since announcing JavaFX, Sun had nothing to offer JavaOne but shipment dates and shaky demos based on Java SE 6.0 update 10, which kept crashing during the JavaOne keynote.®

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