Sun Microsystems (NSDQ: JAVA) is launching its JavaFX scripting language for building rich Internet applications to rival those built with Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE)'s Flex, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT)'s Silverlight, and open source Ajax. It will also answer a need for flexible, adaptable user interfaces for smartphones and other mobile devices.
JavaFX won't replace other ways of building Java user interfaces, such as the Java programmer's Swing component set. Instead, it will sit on top of Swing and other Java components to make it easier for designers, content creators, and scripting language users -- a less programming literate group than Java Enterprise Edition developers -- to build interactive Web applications. With JavaFX, a Web site visitor can click on a particular subject on a Web page, watch it fade, and get the next desired information presentation filling his screen through a background reloading process.
"This is the biggest innovation to come to the Java platform in years. It's really allowing the Web design community, the Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator users, to come into the fold," said Eric Klein, VP of Java marketing, in an interview.
"It brings us into the same space as Adobe Flex and (open source) Ajax," he added.
As a scripting language, JavaFX will have simplified syntax and logic to build the common menus, buttons, and interactive elements of a Web application interface. Beneath the surface, JavaFX will be invoking Swing and Java application logic to deliver what the end user wants. In part, the Sun move is an acknowledgement of the usefulness of Perl, Python, and PHP, all open source Web scripting languages that are often used by those who have adapted to the loosely coupled techniques of Web development and fall short full Java programming skills.
Scripting languages are both easier to learn and less stringent in what types of data may be used with them. Java is strongly typed; when Java logic calls for a variable, a compiler checks to see that only a strictly defined type of data is used with the statement, such as a five-digit number for a ZIP code. While the characteristic provides safeguards, it can make it more difficult to get dissimilar parts of a Web site to work together.