JavaFX: the worst marketing spin in history

David Fearon
5 Dec 2008

And so Sun, the company that invented Java around ten years ago, has just released JavaFX. I'm not sure I've ever felt quite so cynically dismissive of a new software platform. It seems a desperately cack-handed move to get into the rich internet application market, and it comes at least three years too late.

According to Sun, JavaFX is, "an expressive rich client platform for creating and delivering rich Internet experiences across all screens of your life."

I'm irritated already - whoever came up with the marketing phrase "all screens of your life" (which crops up all over the JavaFX site) needs a good talking to.

Putting it another way, JavaFX is a competitor to Adobe Flash and its Flex RIA platform. Which is much like Silverlight, the Microsoft competitor that currently isn’t really getting anywhere.

To succeed, JavaFX is going to have to displace its massively well-entrenched competitor with some seriously compelling advantages.

How about a compact footprint? Erm, no. JavaFX runs on the standard Java runtime environment, which is still a lumbering beast of a thing; it's a 15MB download. Starting up a Java applet on a web page is always heralded by a fanfare of hard-disk grinding, and JavaFX is no different. The JavaFX examples still take far longer to come to life than a Flash application, while managing to look less polished and demonstrating none of the silky-smooth fluidity of Flash.

All that aside, the thing that annoys the hell out of me is the way in which JavaFX is being marketed. It treats people, especially developers, like total idiots.

Says Schwartz:

"We certainly hadn't up until recently looked at the impact of time-based media, of video playback, of high-quality audio"

It would be more accurate to say that Sun has paid just enough lip service to video and audio to get developers interested in it, and then frustrate the bejeezus out of them by not supporting it properly. The Java Media Framework has been skulking about like an illegitimate child in the backwaters of Sun's website since the late 1990s.

Now we come to the real doozy. According to Schwartz, JavaFX "enables you to bypass hostile browsers". This is accompanied by a slide showing us the hostile browsers in question:

I've never read such a ridiculous statement.

The argument seems to be that Sun is graciously giving us a way to avoid those terrible money-making browser companies (including, um, the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation) and paving the way to simplicity and clarity by introducing a competitor to Flash. Words fail me.

Schwartz goes on to say that JavaFX is for "content owners that want to deliver their content without obstruction."

What? What obstruction? Anyone who wants to deliver an internet application can construct it in Flash and it will run in any one of the ‘hostile’ browsers. Where's the obstruction in that?

Turning now to Sun’s Eric Klein, giving some insight into the groups of people that JavaFX was apparently designed for. Klein opines:

The third group we thought a lot about was the visual designer, folks who use things like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and other graphics tools. And what they said to us is: 'let us join the party. Let’s create a designer-developer workflow, so that our content... can seamlessly get into the development process

The absurdity of that statement genuinely does my head in. As if anybody on the planet is going to think for one second that Adobe designers are going to turn to Sun for their tools by preference, rather than Adobe's own RIA platform, which is aimed at precisely the same usage models.

It all feels horribly like a cynical catch-up ploy from a company whose share price has dropped 84% in the past year, compared to drops of 45% and 54% for Microsoft and Adobe respectively. Which would be fine were it not for the tasteless way in which it’s being marketed.

The nicely ironic twist, of course, is that all those JavaFX videos run in a Flash video player.


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