Sun reworking Java plug-in technology in Java SE 6

Sun is pursuing the consumer, enterprise markets by extending Java and rich experiences to various devices

With an eye toward both consumer and enterprise needs, Sun Microsystems is reworking the plug-in architecture of Java in an upcoming update to Java Platform Standard Edition (SE) 6, company officials said Wednesday evening.

Overall, Sun officials at a briefing in San Francisco stressed the company's new emphasis on not just the enterprise space but consumer systems as well, with the company extending Java and rich experiences to various devices.

With the plug-in platform, a ground-up rewrite is under way, said Ken Russell, from the Java SE deployment team. "This will change how your poker game in [a] Web browser is run as well as your corporate app," Russell said.

The new architecture is planned for inclusion in the upcoming beta of what is now being referred to as Java SE 6 Update N, due in December.

"Really, the defining feature of it is that it runs the applets in a separate process than the Web browser," Russell said.

Features of the plug-in plan include improved scripting support and reliability. More powerful applications can be supported than in the past. Users will be able to tune an applet to run in a particular version of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE); this will enable developers to target one JRE without having to change the behavior of any other applet. Testing also will be simplified.

In addition, better backing will be offered for Windows Vista, including capabilities for signed applets. Support will be offered for Internet Explorer 6 and 7 browsers as well as for Firefox 3 alpha builds and the Firefox 2 browser. Platforms capable of running the plug-in include Solaris, Windows and Linux.

Current plans call for the plug-in technology to be turned on via a switch in the Java control panel.

Sun also delved into other features planned for Java SE 6 Update N.

"Update N is about fixing the consumer experience," with a more solid browser plug-in experience and a better installation experience, said Chet Haase, Java SE client architect. Sun also wants to better enable Java for rich Internet applications.

A faster startup for Java is also planned. This is important in the Web ad and lightweight game space, Haase said. Also planned is inclusion of technology from a project called Quickstarter, which preloads disk cache to bolster performance of lightweight applications. Faster graphics is planned as well, as is Nimbus, which provides a new look and feel for Java Swing client systems.

Haase also noted Sun's plan for the Java Kernel, which enables downloading just the parts of Java that are needed to run an application. While that application is running, the rest of the platform is downloaded.

James Gosling, chief technology officer for the Sun client software group, reviewed plans for JavaFX, which is Sun's platform for building rich, consistent user experiences for a wide variety of devices and systems.

"JavaFX really is a marketing term that is sort of an umbrella for a set of activities," Gosling said. The platform covers consumer-facing technologies and features a services layer based on Java and a database, a presentation layer with HTTPD, and an edge device component, covering desktops to phones to TVs.

"This edge part of the universe -- this is what JavaFX is all about," said Gosling.

Featured in JavaFX is JavaFX Mobile, which is a software stack for mobile phones; Java SE 6 Update N, also known as the consumer JRE; the JavaFX Script scripting language, and JavaFX designer and developer tools.

"[JavaFX Script is] a scripting language sort of in the sense of PHP [Hypertext Preprocessor] and Python and all the rest of them. But while those are focused at generating HTML from the presentation layer outward, JavaFX Script is really all about rich user interactions," Gosling said.

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