Sun starts JavaFX coding contest

The company dangles big cash prizes to spur interest in RIA platform

Hoping to spur adoption of JavaFX, a competitor to RIA (rich Internet application) technologies like Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight, Sun Microsystems is employing a time-tested strategy: cold, hard cash.

Sun has launched a JavaFX developer contest that pays a top prize of US$25,000, $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place. There will also be three special $1,500 awards for student developers - who can also compete for the main prizes - and up to 100 small honorable mention awards.

The contest began this week. The deadline for entries is May 29.

Developers in a range of North American, South American, European, Africa, Asian and Middle Eastern countries are eligible. A complete list is available online.

Winning applications in the contest will be chosen based on criteria such as originality, quality of the end-user experience, and their "viral nature," that is, the likelihood a user will want to pass it along to someone else. The applications must work both inside a browser and as a desktop application and a mobile application or both.

News of the contest brought a thumbs-up from Java developer James Sugrue.

"It should increase the interest in JavaFX, which is no bad thing," he wrote in a blog post to the Java community site Javalobby.

"After all, money is a great driver for creativity."

While Sun is clearly hoping that ponying up money will drive interest in JavaFX, the company is also claiming the platform has made major strides.

As of Feb. 19, Sun had shipped 100 million JavaFX runtimes, according to a February blog post by CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

"From a standing start in early December last year, JavaFX's download rate makes it the fastest growing RIA platform on the market -- demonstrating the fastest adoption of any product Sun has ever shipped," he wrote.

But that number could have been higher if JavaFX had shipped with support for Linux or Sun's own Solaris operating systems. JavaFX currently supports only Windows and Mac.

Sun says Linux and Solaris support will surface this year.

"As a developer all I have at home is Linux and I can't research JavaFX on work time, they aren't interested," poster 'Jon P' said in reply to Schwartz's post. "This effectively shuts me out from trying it, even though am very interested. Please hurry and get it done soon."

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