Deja-vu or finally worthwhile?

JavaFX to go fully open source by year’s end – will we start to use it?

Chris Mayer
JavaFX

JavaOne has once again become a forum for JavaFX to show off its abilities. Is this year any different to previous ones?

As JavaOne kicks into gear, many attendees were wondering
which technology would feature most at Sunday’s JavaOne Strategy
Keynote.

To some, it probably felt a little like déjà vu
as Oracle put plenty of emphasis on their Rich Internet Application
platform, JavaFX. Java’s steward has spent many years now trying to
atone for their errors in the bungled 1.x series in
2009.

Developers just didn’t see the need for it (some still might
not now) and Oracle’s promised client revolution never
materialised. Why would you want to learn a new scripting language
when there
are arguably better
alternatives? At the
time,
 client-side Java just wasn’t worth
the effort.

Fast forward to late 2011, when JavaFX 2.0 arrived with a new
set of Java APIs opening up the capabilities to all, which you’d no
doubt agree is far more compelling.

Still, Oracle still faces an uphill
struggle
to convince Java
developers who’d dabbled with the RIA technology the first time
round to come back to the rebooted version. Strategic usability
moves over the past year from the JavaFX team paved the way for
some to jump back, but possibly not as many as Oracle
wanted.

At last year’s JavaOne, the drive
to make JavaFX properly open source began, revealing that 2.x
would be open source. This
week, they promised
that
JavaFX would be fully open
source
by the end of the year.

Seeing JavaFX running on a Raspberry Pi at this year’s
keynote
might be the concrete proof
needed that JavaFX was worth picking up.
Oracle’s VP of Development, Nandini Ramani
,
announced that JavaFX would be coming to ARM devices
through a
developer preview
, much in keeping Oracle’s recent
embedded moves. This new willingness to embrace emerging
technologies could be the lifesaver that JavaFX needs to create a
community around it.

But for JavaFX to truly get the support it needs, there needs
to be innovations within desktop Java
,
too
. Coupled with the keynote, rich web application
experts
Canoo
were the first of many to make a big announcement, open
sourcing their remoting solution Dolphin under an Apache 2.0
license.

The bridging project tackles a common complaint of Canoo’s
customers – they want to keep application logic on the server,
whilst fully exploiting all the client technologies available to
them (JavaFX, Swing, SWT and Eclipse RCP for example).

The disconnect between Enterprise Java and
Desktop Java
is a well-known issue within the
space
, which until now hadn’t really been
tackled.

Dolphin builds upon REST to link the server and client, in
what Canoo are calling a ‘shared presentation model’ – the server
decides how to display the application,
while
the client chooses what to display, splitting the
load.

Dolphin isn’t yet at a 1.0 version, which could put people
off, but Canoo say that it is in production environment, with some
of their business partners using it with JavaFX, Swing and Eclipse
RCP. They’ve also offered commercial Dolphin support to anyone who
might be considering using the tool within architecture or as part
of a new project.

With projects such as Dolphin giving developers what they
actually want, is it time to dub JavaFX “the comeback kid”? Could
it even replace Swing in the long run? This tweet (retweeted 13
times) from Red Hat Principal Software Engineer Dan Allen suggest
it might have turned the tide.

After five years of Oracle lauding it without much substance, it
seems JavaFX is may actually be showing some promise. The problem
is that a JSR is only coming with Java 9 (2015). By that time, will
it lose its relevancy once more?

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