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Sun’s Withdrawal of SwingX Funding Angers Community

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Announced at JavaOne 2004, the SwingLabs project has been an important breeding ground for new Swing-based UI technologies that can feed into the core JDK. The project initially attracted a number of developers outside of Sun but has faltered a little in the last year. Sun has now decided to cease funding for the SwingX project altogether, as announced via a post to SwingLabs' forum by Jeanette Winzenburg . This has angered many in the Swing development community where there is a growing view that the core Swing APIs are being relegated to a supporting GUI library for the newer JavaFX technology. Kirill Grouchnikov puts this succinctly in his blog post on the topic:

"core Swing is in the process of being retired as a legacy UI technology inside Sun, and last week has marked another sad (yet expected) milestone - stopping the funding of SwingX project."

In his analysis on the history of SwingLabs, Kirill cites Sun's January 2007 decision to drop the SwingX Painter layers and the JXComponent interfaces as the trigger point for the decline in community involvement arguing that:

"this has effectively destroyed the trust of external contributors, who never came back, even after Sun developers have retired themselves from being involved in the project."

Krill is also deeply skeptical about JavaFX:

“I don't know what the future holds for JavaFX. Sun is heavily betting on it, and nobody wants to have their Nomad moment forever archived on the Internet. All I know is that JavaFX has effectively halted all core Swing development. Over the last 18 months, we have seen significant architectural initiatives (JSR 295 and JSR 296) changing leads and frozen. All client-facing improvements in Java2D, AWT and Swing in Java 6 Update 10 are completely driven by the requirements of JavaFX.”

Sun staff engineer Josh Marinacci, who is closely associated with Sun’s JavaFX project, states in a follow-up post that such concern is premature, arguing that SwingX and SwingLabs continue on, and that Swing developers will benefit from recent changes in Java SE 6 Update 10 and ahead in Java 7:

“As a life long client Java developer I have never been happier with the current state of the Java stack. Client Java applications are becoming faster, more reliable, and easier to develop. And this is true for both Swing and JavaFX applications. Stay tuned for the 1.0 release of JavaFX. I think you will be happy when you see what we've been working on. It's an exciting time to be a GUI app developer on the Java platform. “

It is certainly the case that Sun remains publicly committed to JavaFX. At Adobe's MAX conference Sun re-iterated that Java FX Desktop 1.0 would ship in early December (the date has now been set as December 4th), with JavaFX Mobile and TV delivered during the first calendar quarter of 2009. Moreover Sun has been actively hiring engineers to work on JavaFX in the last year, recruiting staff from Apple and Adobe amongst others. The fact remains however that software contributes relatively little to Sun’s bottom line. Sun’s total software revenues for the first quarter of fiscal 2009 was $124m, compared with $507m for storage and $1,246m for servers and other systems. Having announced lay-offs of around 6,000 employees without giving notice to any individuals, a certain amount of concern in the wider Java community, as well as within Sun, is understandable. For developers who have committed to Java and Swing the lack of transparency on Sun's plans for Swing in Java 7 is becoming a real concern.

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