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ONJava review of the state of Java Media


Chris Adamson has a series of articles up on ONJava about Java Media. In part 1, he looks at the current state of client-side Java and why media is important and AJAX is not enough. Part 2 reviews the current Java media libraries and finds them lacking in what is needed for the present and future. The series concludes in part 3 where he discusses ways forward, from a JMF re-write to licensing Flash and ends up with Google as a potential library developer for the new library.

Adamson makes the point that Java needs to be involved with media in the future, rather than ceeding the ground to Flash. His two main reasons:

first, Java's suitability for complex and deep tasks makes it well suited for difficult problem domains like media. Secondly, with web apps and Ajax filling many roles Java might have been meant for, and with Flash holding such a huge and growing lead as a next-generation client technology, it raises the question that if Java isn't going to be relevant for media, then just what kinds of desktop apps is it going to suited for?

In reviewing current libraries he finds the all lacking, for numerous reasons. All of them, except QuickTime for Java, lack strong support for creative tasks. QuickTime for Java is limited to two platforms and Adamson sees it as on the way to deprecation. He then lists some possible ways for Java to get back involved in media:

License Flash and develop a Flash player in Java:

This would re-legitimize Java as a media platform, and could be good for Adobe in spreading Java to more devices (particularly if it can be done in ME on the small device, where Java has a distinct advantage). Also, as GPL Java makes the platform more palatable to Linux users, a Java-based Flash could bring modern Flash capabilities to Linux, where Flash upkeep has lagged. But then again, Linux support is a problem Adobe could solve for itself if it were so inclined. And for Windows and Mac, Adobe doesn't exactly have a problem distributing Flash or getting users to upgrade to the latest version, so the claim that a Java implementation of Flash would improve Flash's distribution may fall on deaf ears.

Sun could develop a rich library to work with MPEG-4

By building the library to work with MPEG-4 as its native format, Java will gain immediate compatibility with a massive range of content and content providers, and will be ideally positioned to be the platform for generating and developing that content.

...Sun's history with JMF - a lousy design, a crazy selection of partners, and seven years of indifference - is proof enough that this is not their game. Sun has no talent for media, no passion for media, and no relevant patents.

Google develop a rich library to work with MPEG-4. Adamson sees this as the most likely outcome. Google has shown an awareness of the importance of media by purchasing YouTube, and an embrace of multimedia technology goes along with their mission to capture and organize the world's information. In the end, however, Adamson isn't convinced this will happen and sees Java media as possibly a sinking ship.

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