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InfoQ Homepage News Consumer JRE: Applets Meet Java Web Start

Consumer JRE: Applets Meet Java Web Start

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A recent Sun Developer Network article proclaims that "applets are back", citing the upcoming Java 6 Update 10 release as the cause.

The article lists several changes to applets and the Java plug-in that are meant to revitalize the technology:
  • Improved reliability
  • Improved user experience
  • Applets launch in the background
  • Built-in JNLP support
  • Per-applet command line arguments
  • Heap size, Java 2D API acceleration options
  • Improved Java/JavaScript programming language integration
  • Improved Windows Vista support
  • Signed applets now work correctly in Protected Mode Internet Explorer
The article goes on to highlight what the authors consider to be the most significant change:
The most significant new feature of the next-generation Java Plug-in is built-in support for launching applets from JNLP files. Using the JNLP file format as the applet descriptor allows applets to instantly reuse JNLP extensions previously written for Java Web Start applications, and significantly expands the capabilities of applets in many other ways.
This new design has several implications regarding Java applet usage in the future. After this release, customizations previously only available with Java Web Start will be made available in Java applets as well. Included in that list are:
  • Access to JNLP extensions - There are several extensions for Java Web Start, including JOGL support and JavaFX support.
  • Java version selection and control - JNLP files support fine-grained management of the required Java version for the defined application.
  • JNLP APIs - JNLP has several APIs for managing downloads, filing saving and opening, interacting with the clipboard, printing, and a number of other features.
  • VM/Command-Line Arguments - Java Web Start applications can control JVM-specific start-up settings, including memory settings, garbage collection flags, and several other system-level controls.
Part of this change includes per-applet JVMs; applets running as a separate process. Java applets will no longer run as part of the browser's process, protecting the browser from applet performance issues (and vice-versa), and also allowing for better JVM management by the applet itself.

A recent article at InfoQ: 'Pivot: Re-inventing the Applet?' discussed a new UI toolkit targeted specifically at the applet enhancements described in this Sun Developer Network article:
Pivot, as a platform, is meant to directly compete with Flex and Silverlight as a rich-client that is embeddable directly in the browser. The Pivot developers consider part of that platform to be Java 6 update 10 (also known as the consumer JRE).
Similarly, JavaFX, a new scripting language technology from Sun is also relying on the new Consumer JRE, and is targeted to compete in the rich internet application space next to Flex and Silverlight. InfoQ has a number of articles covering the changes occurring with JavaFX.

InfoQ will continue to report on new information and milestones regarding Java 6 update 10, and the impacts to Java in the RIA space.

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