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InfoQ Homepage News The Missing Piece of Desktop Java ... The Consumer JRE

The Missing Piece of Desktop Java ... The Consumer JRE

This year's JavaOne had a heavy desktop focus with the announcement of JavaFX Script. At present JavaFX Script makes use of Swing and Java2D. As a result a full JRE installation is required for deployment. Missing from the keynote announcement at JavaOne was discussion on improving the deployment path of desktop Java applications whether they are written in JavaFX Script or more traditional Swing.

This lack of a deployment solution has caused many to question JavaFX Script:

..The question becomes is this too little too late? ... Even today with Swing being available to help create nicer looking UIs, the JRE plugin nightmare remains. I can vouch for this as I just finished an Applet project that took 4 months to get through QA because of all of the issues related to the JRE installation process on different platforms and browsers...

Hope may finally come later this year in the form a consumer targeted JRE. Ethan Nicholas was hired by Sun last year to work on a "Java Kernel" with a smaller download footprint. Such work was essentially confirmed in an recent interview by Sun CTO Robert Brewin the week of JavaOne:

...If you look at what we are trying to do with JavaFX mobile, we have got to fix the JRE issues related to size of download, size of installation, time to cold start, etc. All these things are related to having a large piece of software with a whole bunch of things in there you probably don't need. The current plan is that we are going to start seeing some of these features appear in Java 6 update 2, and more in update 3, and beyond.

Nicholas presented a session at JavaOne detailing his work at JavaOne.  He is targeting a 2-4MB JRE download.  Sun is also targeting a "patch in place" strategy, meaning that updates to the consumer JRE will be applied in the same JRE directory rather than creating multiple JREs on the system.

Discussions on this concept can be found on a TSS thread started before details where confirmed in Nicholas' presentation . Such download sizes would place Java in the same arena as Apollo which is shooting for 5-9 megs and Microsoft Silverlight which is at ~4MB. Download is only a portion of the battle however. It remains to be seen if the changes to Java will also include a better browser based installation experience as well as any effort to limit Java to having one up to date version on a machine.

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