RealTime IT News

Client-Side Java Gets A Boost

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Sun Microsystems is working to make good on the many promises related to client-side computing that it first made earlier this year at JavaOne -- although it admits parts of the effort may be some ways off.

During that show, the company introduced its new client-side technology, JavaFX, which would compete with Adobe's AIR and Microsoft's Silverlight. It also promised a future update of Java SE would offer considerably improved performance, particularly in areas related to startup.

Speaking here with journalists yesterday, Sun officials said the effort is underway, but could still take years because of its dependence on making massive changes in Java SE.

In the meantime, the company sought to clear up uncertainty among developers surrounding what JavaFX will involve.

"There has been a certain amount of confusion of which pieces are what and where they go," James Gosling, a Sun Fellow and the creator of the Java language, said yesterday. "It’s a complicated landscape of puzzle pieces that fit together."

The company said JavaFX, which is built on Java SE, will be designed to bridge the gap between Web designers (the ones who took art courses in college, as he put it) and developers (or the ones who took computer science). JavaFX Script will be a scripting language like PHP or Python, but focusing on rich user interactions.

One concern has been that building JavaFX Script applications will require a developer environment, and Sun isn't exactly known as an IDE company. However, it said its content creation tools would come in the form of a plug-in that works with either Adobe's Photoshop or Flash CS3.

On the wireless side, Sun said JavaFX Mobile will be built on the assets of SavaJe Technologies, which the company acquired in April of this year. However, one change is that JavaFX Mobile will be based on Java SE, not ME, as has been the tradition for mobile phone.

"It's an attempt to get uniformity by having the same bits on all phones, to have the same commonality on all OSes, so you have interoperability," Gosling said.

Major update ahead for Java SE

Sun officials also discussed the next significant release of Java SE, currently dubbed Java SE Update N -- since the release does not yet have a release number or a name approved by Sun's lawyers.

The release is available in an early-access form now, with most features functional. Some portions, especially kernel-related features, are still in internal testing, according to Chet Haase, a Java SE client architect at Sun. Haase added that a beta release is planned for December.

When Update N ships, Sun is banking that it will address some of the issues facing the consumer space -- most notably the browser plug-in system and startup performance. Gosling called the present level of browser support a mess, due to upgrades, lawsuits and patchwork fixes.

Ken Russell of the Java SE deployment team said support for Java applets would get a "ground-up rewrite."

"This is important for both consumers and enterprises," he said. "This will change how your poker game in your browser is run and how your enterprise corporate app will be run."