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JavaFX Finally Makes Its Debut

Sun Microsystems today formally released JavaFX 1.0, its Java-based platform for building rich Internet applications (RIAs) that can run on computers or mobile devices and built on its widely-used Java programming language.

Java has always been a programmer's language, but with the release of JavaFX, Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA), is allowing the task of programmatic content creation to shift to designers, whose focus is on the art of design, not the science of programming.

"Our target audience are people that we call creators," Octavian Tanase, senior director of the Java Platform Group at Sun told InternetNews.com. "With the 1.0 release, we are targeting Web developers, people that are likely going to extend the experience of the Java interface. By 2011, the primary target will be designers, the people who use rich designing tools like [Adobe Systems'] Flash."

Of course, the road to a design-oriented tool will take a while. Sun eventually plans to have its own application for designers to use to build RIAs, but for now, they will have to use either the NetBeans or Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE), which is used by programmers. Those newer tools will come out next summer.

The JavaFX shipping today is for desktop computers. A mobile edition is planned for Summer, 2009.

The JavaFX Production Suite is a set of tools and plug-ins for Eclipse and NetBeans with features such as single-click conversion of media formats to JavaFX and the ability to reuse the assets across all browsers on multiple platforms.

AJAX code, which is written in JavaScript, can be imported and used in a JavaFX application so existing apps can be ported to JavaFX. By converting it to JavaFX, it gets the full power of Java, so it's not as restricted as AJAX, which has a lot of limitations due to being based on the simpler JavaScript scripting language.

A smaller, faster JavaFX

JavaFX has had a long gestation time, almost 18 months since it was first announced prior to the 2007 JavaOne conference. Part of the reason for the delay was the Java platform needed an overhaul. The recently-released Update 10 went a long way toward making JavaFX possible by making it smaller, faster and more modular.

Another feature of Update 10 was the ability to drag a Java applet off a Web page and onto a desktop, which JavaFX also uses. The Drag-to-Install feature allows end users to drag a JavaFX application off their browser and onto the desktop, so they can use it like a desktop widget instead of having to return to the Web page to use it.

JavaFX also has a model for building database-driven applications, and instead of just data input and output, all kinds of multimedia effects can be added. Sound, video and animation can all be added to a database app, and the application can call Web services as needed.

JavaFX can be downloaded from JavaFX.com.