JavaOne: Oliver's JavaFX (he calls it JFX)

by Tim O'Brien

Just got out of the JavaFX presentation by Chris Oliver. I entered the room somewhat skeptical of JavaFX as a viable product. IMO, Adobe Flex has the momentum, Microsoft has entered the market with Silverlight, and here's Sun coming along in lagging the market with no tool support. I can't say I'm entirely bought over, but JavaFX as a technology is incredibly compelling.

First, some personal observations about Chris Oliver - he's soft spoken, not the best presenter in the world compared to some of the seasoned media veterans you see in the general sessions, but this is all very refreshing. At a conference like this, you get tired of the song and dance, the slick haired tech executive who hasn't seen an IDE in a few years talking about ROI and TCO. Chris Oliver is close to the code, extremely opinionated, and impatient. He's a developer. He looks the part.

Second, he had a Neo moment - "This is the matrix." So he starts showing us some slides, he gets to slide four - an example of a bad Java swing application - a PDF reader. He explains that Swing applications all look bad because they are Swing, etc. etc. We're all expecting the next slide to be an example of a slick looking JavaFX application, and he blew everyone's mind by saying, "Now for the Flex are looking at it" So, he proceeded to show us this slick looking JavaFX application, zoom animations, a fancy animated view of pages ala itunes albums. I mean it was impressive, and I'm a skeptic.

Another great thing about Oliver, he's opinionated, that's a good thing. He refused to answer questions that weren't up to his standards. I like that.

Interesting Rails Applications::Sortable Table Plugin

Side note, tried to spend as little time in the press area as possible, the action is out in the sessions and the Pavillions. This evening, I decided to write this blog entry from the press room, ran into Michael Kovacs who showed me a demo of Pitchwire, implemented in Ruby on Rails, is an interesting application targeted publicists and influencers and journalists. He showed me some of the code and a interesting Rails plugin Sortable Table Plug-in. Who would have thought that I'd find a relevant Ruby on Rails plug-in in the press room of JavaOne.


Bob Sagem
2007-05-10 09:10:14
I think Adobe's got some trouble on their hands - with AJAX on the low end, Java coming down from the high end - why bother with Flex. Especially on phones, the game is already over and Java won (Google didn't pick Flash lite, they picked Java...).
Tim O'Brien
2007-05-10 09:44:32
@bob, maybe, I'm not necessarily disagreeing. But, I do think that Adobe knows the mind of the creative professional more than Sun. Point to a graphics tool that Sun has launched in the last decade that is widely used by designers and artists.

Add to that the economic effects of Microsoft getting into this business. Who knows what it going to happen... Also, is the game already over on phones, I don't have any real numbers, but I thought that Flash Lite had wider market penetration in Asia.

James Ward
2007-05-10 10:53:29
Hi Bob,

No trouble. Java, Ajax, and Flex can all be used nicely together. Are there things about Flex that you think we should improve? Things that make Ajax & Java better options for what you are building? The platform is evolving incredibly fast and your input is important to that evolution.

BTW: Where did Google pick Java over Flash Lite? I know on my Blackberry the Google Maps app is Java ME (because that's what's on the phone_, but are there other places you are aware of?

-James (Adobe)

2007-05-10 11:23:50
Okay, in the extremely unlikely case, what if somehow Sun and Adobe were to work together?
Tim O'Brien
2007-05-11 08:16:04
@Jeremy, it does seem unlikely. But, from my perspective it would be a great combination of companies. Adobe's product are hands down winners in this space, Sun isn't interested in fill up the tool stack to the point of recreating something like Photoshop or Illustrator CS3 (not a guess, I was told this directly).

It is an interesting idea, Sun and Adobe working together from a people perspective. Both Sun and Adobe have brilliant engineers, both Sun and Adobe have come to understand open source. I'm just not sure how the two technology stacks would be integrated. In other words, I don't see Flash being reimplemented in JavaFX - I'm assuming there is already too much investment in the existing Flash infrastructure.

IMO, Flex|Apollo and Java integration is going to happen is isn't a question of when by how and by whom. If it hasn't happened already, Sun and Adobe should start working together despite technology differences to capture that momentum.

I'm rooting for Sun and Adobe - I like choice. I'm not bullish on Silverlight mostly because my new Vista laptop shows me a bluescreen at least once a day.

2007-05-11 12:25:00
I like people with opinions, too, but I wonder what you mean by 'he refused to answer questions that weren't up to his standards.'

Did he simply ignore them? Say 'sorry, I won't answer that, it's not up to my standards?' Answer a question different than the one asked?

Tim O'Brien
2007-05-11 13:33:02
@Mark, don't get me wrong. Nothing he did came across as being difficult in anyway. Here's the full explanation. He tried to stop talking earlier than most presenters because he wanted to give time for questions. Certain questioners would start to ask about an issue like the Java plug-in, he'd stop them before they could finish and say something like, "Yeah, ok, I know, we need a better Java plug-in, I've talked about that a lot today, I'm not interested in discussing it right now. It is an issue, next questions."

I happened to appreciate that. It cut down on the noise, and you could tell he was just being picky about the questions he wanted to answer.

Bob #2
2007-05-13 19:47:35
@Another great thing about Oliver, he's opinionated, that's a good thing. He refused to answer questions that weren't up to his standards. I like that.

This is not a good thing, it is a problem. Sun seems to never does the first things first. They just do what they want or think is cool. Java has many problems that keep it from being accepted on the web. Namely deployment, Java isn't a slow technology it just loads slow in the browser. Look at how quickly flash loads, fix this first and people will invent there own ways to make it successful.

JavaFX is a nice idea, markup language for UI and effects. Not a new concept but a nice to see sun approach the problem. But there are a couple issues with the implementation.

1.) JSON - This makes no sense. No other markup lanaguage use this format. It is not a standard has no schema, versioning, validation, and not easy to output from server-side frameworks.
2.) Size - Libraries are 2mb this is not an option of a web framework. Most likely any serious application built would be in the 3mb range.

2007-05-14 04:05:37
Don't get too excited. At the end of the day it's just another language on top of the JVM. As others have mentioned, the big news would have been if Sun had announced a deal with Adobe. We've already been through applets. Applets could do Flash-like stuff years and years ago.

Jim, it's DOA.

2007-05-14 09:21:34
I have a small video of the PDF reader here:

I really like it, and can't wait for a downloadable demo, as I can't stand the Adobe Reader anymore.

The biggest challenge for Java FX is the tool support, this is were it would have been nice to have Adobe and Sun work togethere, but that's never going to happen. At the very least, FX needs an IDE like environment that can be used by non programmers. Basic editing, but more importantly, animation support (mainly timeline) and other features to compose an app together in an environment that doesn't cater to only programmers (Eclipse, Netbeans, etc).

As for advanced tools for content creation, people could still use Photoshop and Illustrator, and as long as you can import items from these tools everything should be set to go.

Tim O'Brien
2007-05-14 09:28:24
@Augusto, hello. I saw you post to the javafx-user list this morning and was going to post a followup including your link. Thanks for beating me to it.

Shame that JavaFX is already hobbled by Sun Legal. I hope they realize very soon that they need to release that PDF viewer as an example.