With Adobe's divestment of Flex and mobile Flash and Microsoft's move from Silverlight to Metro, Oracle now seems all alone in believing that a fat client framework -- in the form of JavaFX -- is a worthwhile investment.
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Or we would be, if it weren't for mobile pushing us back to client-side development. If you'd asked me a decade ago whether Objective-C would come back from the grave, I would've waited for the punch line to the joke. Meanwhile, Google decided to follow suit with its own slimmed fork of Java and an XML UI definition language.
Tools like PhoneGap didn't make quite the splash they might have because users came to expect that native look and feel. A new niche was created with tools like Appcelerator Titanium that gave a look and feel without making you code in Objective-C, but they were too slow to develop to keep the faux-nativeness going.
Yet HTML5 is starting to come on strong in the mobile world, at least in terms of video and other functionality. Increasingly, developers trying to target both Android and iPhone are going this direction, a choice made easier by the dinosaurs RIM and Nokia continuing their long march into extinction.
Death to fattiesIn fact, the new mobile world is driving us to the standards that were always resisted. Microsoft has started supporting jQuery -- at least in spirit. Even Apple, the reigning king of all things proprietary, has become an HTML5 advocate.
Oracle is the last holdout with its JavaFX framework. While visiting my company's Chicago office, I attended a Chicago Java User Group presentation by Oracle's Roger Brinkley. With compliments to Mr. Brinkley, who had a tough job, there was a bit of "party like it's 1999" feel to the presentation.
The JavaFX demos don't work well on the Mac, let alone on Linux. They smelled of SwingSet demos from back in the day. Every developer in the room was probably thinking, "Why would I want to do that fade effect with a big fat Java install when I can do that in jQuery without one?"
The XML language looked like Android's XML UI langauge. When I asked Mr. Brinkley any question that required a comparison between Android and JavaFX, the response was essentially, "This is the direction of Java on the client." Talking points are the last bastion of an intellectually dead argument.
Whether or not you think this is the direction we should go, you have to admit the options are shrinking. JQuery is the killer framework for HTML, and it's a monster swallowing the world of fat client options. In the cloud era, why would a company want to install something native and pay the costs of traditional PC maintenance? Full-scale adoption of HTML5 will end this argument for good.
The fat client been a great ride, but I'm glad it's finally over. Client-side installs for corporate applications have always been fraught with problems and have required draconian IT policies to maintain securely. The new browser-based world is the joint dream of both IT managers and developers alike. Those holding out for more fat, rich, thick client development had better face the fact that the world is slimming down.
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This story, "The long death of fat clients" was originally published by InfoWorld.