Sun Launches JavaFX To Try And Compete With Flash and Silverlight

Today, Sun officially launched JavaFX 1.0, a new development platform for building rich internet applications (RIA) for Web browsers and desktops. Sun's apparent belief is that with Java technology already being on more than 90 percent of desktops and laptops and 85 percent of mobile devices, they can give Flash and Silverlight a run for their money over time. While that sounds great on paper, I wonder how realistic Sun in being in regards to the lead-time it takes to get a new platform out into the market.

While player penetration holds some weight, as Adobe and Microsoft would tell Sun, it all comes down to getting developers to build on your platform. JavaFX is way late to the game and has quite a few limitations right from the get go. For audio and video applications, JavaFX supports On2's video codecs and On2's Flix software application is the only tool that can encode video for JavaFX. Nothing wrong with On2's codecs, but if JavaFX won't support H.264 soon; they won't get a lot of support. And with Flix being the only tool that can encode video, it puts the costs of encoding content out of the reach of many developers.

Speaking to Sun about this very issue, they did say that this is only version 1.0 and the start of an audio video framework that will support H.264 and other functionality going forward. That's good to hear but again, Adobe and Microsoft has such a head start that I wonder how many additional releases of JavaFX are needed to where developers can start to compare Sun's functionality to Adobe or Microsoft's, specific to video. Sun also mentioned that over time, their Java business model will evolve to where they are generating licensing from things like their Streamstar server. A Java based streaming server that they want to license when the demand for JavaFX video requires enterprises and content delivery networks to support the format. While I understand Sun's desire to generate revenue from a server license, ask any of the CDNs what they think about supporting yet another video delivery platform. Sun won't like the answer.

Along with the announcement, Sun also launched a new website, which showcases some of the functionality of the new platform. While I really would like to see some of the video examples, they don't work. I keep getting an error message saying, "There was one error opening the page" or "Sorry! We couldn't find the document requested." When I questioned Sun on this they told me the site is getting a lot of traffic and that I should try back later. Come on. You're Sun. You launch a new platform that you want people to check out yet the site can't handle the traffic? And how much traffic can it really be getting? At the time of me publishing this post, not a single website or blog in my RSS reader, of which there is over 100, even mention the JavaFX announcement. Sun should be doing a better job with the showcase website.

While it is too early to know if developers will like some of the advantages that JavaFX has when it comes to dragging applications from the browser to Windows desktops, the real question is what are the advantage of using JavaFX as a consumer? Other than the interface and the way the viewer interacts with the content, viewers are the ones that drive the adoption of video platforms. Unless Sun can show viewers through the use of some new applications why they should want to use JavaFX over Flash or Silverlight, Sun is going to have a very hard time cracking the audio and video market.

That being said, while more platforms means additional confusion in a world of online video that already has no standards, competition tends to make companies work harder at making their solutions better. So welcome to the party Sun, but if you want to have any shot at making it, you need to be in this for the long haul and can't expect to see any big gains for years.