Java 2 critiques in; views mixed

Java's user interface and graphics capabilities are improving, but the size of such visuals and the inconsistent support among browsers for the new features are making developers wary of using them. The new features come in Sun Microsystems' Java 2, announced last month. In its core -- not as an add-on -- it now has visual tools called Java Foundation Classes. These include the Swing user interface components and the Java 2D application programming interface (API). Sun also released the Java 3D API for three-dimensional images.

Java’s user interface and graphics capabilities are improving, but the size of such visuals and the inconsistent support among browsers for the new features are making developers wary of using them.

The new features come in Sun Microsystems' Java 2, announced last month. In its core -- not as an add-on -- it now has visual tools called Java Foundation Classes. These include the Swing user interface components and the Java 2D application programming interface (API). Sun also released the Java 3D API for three-dimensional images.

With Java 2, developers can write visually appealing programs entirely in Java, says Mike Gilpin, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

But, Gilpin says, many corporate programmers who look to Java for thin-client development still find Java’s visuals too slow and too likely to complicate the deployment of Java applications on different platforms and browsers.

But for client/server and desktop development, many firms have little need to abandon Windows languages such as Visual Basic, Gilpin says.

The inconsistent support among various browsers and versions of browsers has prevented Eaton Corp., a Cleveland-based manufacturer, from using visual Java components in its applications, says Clayton Ferguson, project manager of emerging technologies. Instead, users see leaner, well-supported HTML applications, even though these applications may require page reloads, even for simple data queries.

David S. Moore, principal engineer at RWD Technologies Iin Columbia, Maryland, says he has written prototypes with Swing components and would like to work with them but is concerned about inconsistent support in browsers and the possibility that graphics would hurt performance.

BAX Global, a logistics company in Irvine, California, uses Java where it can, because its platform neutrality lets the company port its server-side code to other platforms as a server hits its limits.

Programmers can also continue to work in each of those different environments, says Michael Ingardia, a consultant who is employed by Atlanta-based Peridyne Technology Solutions LLC and is currently working at BAX.

On BAX’s intranet, users see a Java interface and rich-looking maps, helped along by the Jviews tool from Java graphics component-maker Ilog SA in Gentilly, France. “In that case we have more freedom because we have more control over the user,” Ingardia said.

But over the Internet, where users are more diverse, the company sticks with HTML as the front end.

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