Sun Tries to Make Java Relevant to Consumers Again

More than a decade ago, Sun Microsystems' Java software-development language burst onto the scene, promising a new era of Web-delivered software applications and applets that would work equally well on any computing platform. Over the years, the promise of Java shifted away from PC clients, as users balked at the technology's slow performance and platform-agnostic blandness. But Java has remained popular with developers because of its simple and logical object-oriented (OO) programming model, which has proven adept in a variety of scenarios, including mobile applications and enterprise services. This week, however, Sun announced a plan to bring Java back to its roots with a new version of the technology aimed at consumers.

The announcements are coming out of Sun's annual JavaOne Conference, which is being held this week in San Francisco. Java is being bolstered with a simple new scripting language called JavaFX that will come in PC (JavaFX Script) and mobile (JavaFX Mobile) variants. Not to be confused with JavaScript, which shares a name and some syntax with Java but is otherwise completely unrelated, JavaFX is an attempt to reinvent Java for its original purpose: to address the needs of small devices, including PC Web browsers, set-top boxes, and portable devices.

"This is Java for consumers, for individuals," said Sun Executive Vice President Rich Green. "\[It's\] not just enterprises, not just corporate. The scripting language we are releasing will dramatically enhance the number of people who can create content for this platform." The advantage of JavaFX Script and JavaFX Mobile, of course, is that the millions of developers out there with Java experience will be able to move over to the new technologies easily and address entirely new markets.

JavaFX Script requires the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) that's already installed on hundreds of millions of PCs worldwide, while JavaFX Mobile requires the Java Mobile Edition (JME) software that's already installed on billions of smart phones and other portable devices around the globe. In other words, the potential here is huge. "This is the realization of Java fulfilling the mantra of 'write once, run anywhere,'" Green told CNET "We really had to take a step back and take a fresh view of how to achieve this broad access to the platform for developers."

Meanwhile, Sun's new Java initiatives are just the latest entries in a crowded field of developer technologies. In addition to established scripting languages such as JavaScript, PHP, Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (Ajax), ASP .NET and others, recently announced technologies like Microsoft's Silverlight and Adobe System's Apollo will attempt to persuade developers as well. Sun is hoping that its enormous user base and the elegant programmatic capabilities of Java will win over developers. Plus, Sun has an ace up its proverbial sleeve: It plans to open source its JavaFX technologies, allowing others to extend the technology and easily create development environments.

TAGS: Windows 8
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