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Sun's JavaFX Sets Out to Challenge Flash and Silverlight

At Adobe MAX 2008 in San Francisco in mid-November, Sun Microsystems was showcasing JavaFX on the exhibit hall floor. While the developer kit includes many services and compilers, the portion that Sun showed off at MAX—and the one that drew the most attention when it was officially released last week—was the graphics and media portion.

These tools are part of what Sun calls the JavaFX Production Suite.The Production Suite contains JavaFX 1.0 Plugins for Adobe Illustratorand Photoshop, enabling content created or opened in these CreativeSuite 3 or 4 applications to be converted to the JavaFX format.

In addition, Sun has the JavaFX 1.0 Media Factory, which contains a graphics viewer to display any JavaFX-format graphic as well as an SVG convertor, which converts files from the Adobe-based SVG vector format to JavaFX format.

As with any Java tool, though, the biggest benefits are the Java libraries that must be used in any application that loads JavaFX format graphics files.

"To view the Javadocs," Sun says in one of its learning documents at JavaFX.com, "open the index.html file in the /Libraries/javafx-fxd-1.0-javadoc folder in the installation directory."

The libraries, graphics tools, and compiler/runtime tools are all part of the JavaFX strategy that attempts to take the place of AJAX (Asynchronous Java And XML) and challenge Adobe’s Flash and Microsoft’s Silverlight for the creation and distribution of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs).

Like Adobe, Sun has positioned the creation of programmatical elements within the Eclipse integrated development environments, as well as other programs that take advantage of the web-centric NetBeans programming.

Unlike Adobe, though, Java has quite a headstart on mobile handsets, including many of the 500 million mobile handsets that use FlashLite—the limited mobile version of the Flash player—but on which the full JavaFX capability can be used when the final JavaFX mobile platform ships in the first half of 2009. This includes the use of Java to deliver progressive download or streaming video; in fact, for mobile developers, Sun has already included an emulator to assist in faster and more accurate mobile application creation.

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