Sun has opened up a test version of its Java Store, which it bills as a Web site where developers can connect with millions of computer users who run Java on their desktop.
Similar to Apple's successful App Store, the site is designed to give consumers an easy way to download Java programs. A beta version of the store launched Tuesday with just a couple of applications -- a Java version of the RuneScape online role-playing game and a Java-based Twitter client called Twitter FX -- but developers will have until the Java Store's public launch at the end of this year to add programs to it.
The company is also testing a new developer portal, called the Java Warehouse, which Sun says is "the central repository for Java and JavaFX applications." Developers who pay a US$50 fee to register with Java Warehouse will then be able to distribute their programs via the Java Store.
At first, Java Warehouse applications will be targeted at Mac and Windows users in the U.S. who use the Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer browsers, Sun said.
Later, the site will be expanded to include applications for mobile and TV users, Sun said. While Java Store will be focused on the desktop, Java Warehouse will eventually be used by TV and mobile service providers to create their own "private-branded storefronts" for programs that run on their platforms, Sun said.
Sun has had a lot of success promoting Java as a platform for popular back-end servers applications, but has not enjoyed the same kind of popularity with desktop software. Java Store and Java Warehouse, known internally at Sun as Project Vector, are an effort to breathe new life into client-side applications.
Sun estimates that 800 million desktop users worldwide have Java installed, and it hopes Java Store will give developers an easy way to reach this vast audience.
Java Store's future is somewhat cloudy, however, as Sun is in the process of being acquired by Oracle. The $7.4 billion deal is expected to close by September, and whether the database vendor shares Sun's desktop ambitions is unclear.
According to one analyst, however, there's reason to believe that Oracle may want Java to be strong on the desktop.
"Oracle has all of these applications that will need flashy front ends, said James Governor, an analyst with RedMonk. "I don't think it's impossible that Oracle will actually invest in JavaFX so that they have the whole stack."
Oracle doesn't want to be beholden to other software makers such as Microsoft or Adobe, whose Silverlight and Air technologies are designed to make programs written for the browser more dynamic and interactive. "Oracle likes having the whole stack," Governor said. "That's why they're buying Sun."
At JavaOne, Sun also updated its core Java platforms, releasing updates to its GlassFish Web application server, and updating its JavaFX 1.2 and Java SE 6, update 14 client software.
Sun is making an "early access" version of GlassFish, version 3, available to developers and the company said it was releasing updated versions of its GlassFish Web Stack and Web Space Server software. GlassFish v3 gives developers an early look at software that is based on the emerging Java EE 6 standard.
In a May 18 blog posting announcing Project Vector, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz said he hopes the portal will be used by "banks looking to sign up new accounts, sports franchises looking for new viewers, media companies and news organizations looking for new subscribers - basically, any Java developer looking to escape the browser to reach a billion or so consumers."
The Java Store and Java Warehouse sites went live Tuesday morning in advance of the company's annual Java One conference, which runs through the week in San Francisco.