Infoworld is reporting that Sun will announce JavaFX on Tuesday which will be a response to the growing popularity of technologies like Ajax, Flash and Silverlight. The platform uses the Java runtime and a scripting language called JavaFX Script which is "focused on the content-authoring and content creation crowd. It is a means of creating visually impactful, high-performance, dramatic Web and network-facing artifacts or experiences that run all the way from the desktop running Java SE (Standard Edition) all the way down to mobile devices powered by JavaFX Mobile." according to Rich Green, an executive vice president at Sun.
At first glance, this is a significant announcement. Java has been full of potential in the RIA space but has fallen flat against competitors like Flash. In theory, this should revive Sun's role in building rich applications, and the open source aspect will both push Adobe further and be of interest to a lot of open source developers. One of the places Adobe has been drawing developer talent from is Java, so this may cause more of those developers to stay on Sun's platform.
In the end, I'm not sure how much of a difference this will make, however. JavaFX will enable vector graphics and APIs from the Swing GUI toolkit, but developers have had a hard time actually building things with Swing. The declarative nature of JavaFX may make that easier, but the fact that JavaFX doesn't seem to incorporate a lot of rich media seems like a drawback to me. Then again, this could be a value add for Ajax developers that need a richer toolset to add interactivity to their applications and interfaces. If Ajax developers move to JavaFX in any large number, the adoption could be significant.
It's an interesting play, and Sun looms large over the developer world, so you can't ever discount them. In this case however, I wonder if it's too little too late, especially as Flash and Silverlight offer more functionality. This definitely doesn't seem to be an Apollo competitor, as it's more for web development. I also thought the fact that the first release will be a mobile one is worth noting. Starting from mobile and moving up is opposite what the other technologies have done.
Thanks to Richard Leggett for the link. Silicon Valley Sleuth has a video up from Vnunet.com. Ed Burnette was also all over this.
Update: Just found this CNET story which seems to focus on the mobile aspects of JavaFX. It also seems to imply that JavaFX will compete with Apollo: "Like Adobe's Apollo, developers can use the same tools to write Web browser-based applications or cross-platform desktop applications, Green said." And so the space gets even hotter.