With its new JavaFX technology for rich Internet applications, Sun Microsystems hopes to leverage the strength of the Java development base and Java's ubiquitous presence on devices to make a strong run in a race in which it is a very late entrant.
Indeed, Sun will have its work cut out for it, taking on giants such as Adobe and Microsoft in the rich Internet development space. If this competition can be likened to a race between Olympic runners, it might be broadcast like this:
"In Lane 1, we have Adobe with its Flash and attendant Flex technologies, downloaded millions of times and popular on high-profile sites like YouTube."
"In Lane 3, its up-and-coming newcomer Silverlight, backed by software giant Microsoft and now being leveraged by NBC's prominent Olympics Web site."
"And in Lane 4, we have Sun's JavaFX used by Web properties such as - well, it's still in development."
It is from this set of circumstances that Sun intends to make JavaFX a player.
"This isn't the type of market where only one technology is going to win," said Sun's Jacob Lehrbaum, senior product line manager for JavaFX. But Lehrbaum acknowledged the hill Sun must climb.
"Clearly, we do have to compete for developer mindshare," Lehrbaum said.
Developers and industry analyst Jeffrey Hammond think Sun has a shot, especially in the burgeoning market for applications running on mobile devices.
"I think Sun has the opportunity to catch up very quickly in that space," said Hammond, senior analyst at Forrester.
"I would say that the JavaFX platform looks very good. It has a lot of potential," said Andres Almiray, a software developer at Oracle and a blogger.
"It probably should have been announced three, four, five years ago," Almiray said. "The good thing is that it's finally here."