It seems that Sun can say now, “rumors about my death were greatly exaggerated”. Recently they rather quietly released JavaFX – a rich client platform (what has happened to thin client dreams of Sun and alike? huh? ;) for creating and delivering rich Internet experiences across “all the screens of your life” (they are using this phrase all over the place, and it sucks, to be honest, but go figure).
From what they show in their videos, it looks rather like WPF/Silverlight for Java. In other words, it is the presentation layer for the Java platform. Performance-wise it looks rather good (OK, no idea what hardware was running those demos). For example, they were playing 9 (yes, nine!) video streams simultaneously, but then, who the f#$k needs 9 videos playing at the same time!? It is the same f#$*%ng old useless BS that Microsoft is showing all the time! Of course, it remains to be seen if it can play all this video content without framerate issues that plaque WPF/Silverlight. JavaFX Script is a declarative scripting language behind JavaFX.
Sun is promising to make JavaFX multiplatform, capable of running on desktop, mobile, TV and other Java-enabled consumer platforms, but so far they have desktop version only. Then, as far as I understand, development tools are not necessarily ready yet (judging from their sentence “JavaFX technology will provide a suite of tools and authoring solutions that enable unprecedented collaboration between designers and developers”). If they will deliver all these promises, Microsoft might get into deep trouble with WPF, as Java’s inability to provide good UIs were one of the main reasons why many were choosing .NET over Java on the client side (I am not discussing platforms – .NET 3.5 vs Java 6 – just presentation parts). What Sun has already made right, in my opinion, is their selection of Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator as a designer tools, as these are light-years ahead of Microsoft Expression Designer.
Future will show, what will come out of all this, but the good point is that Microsoft will get some competition in this field, and might eventually do something to fix its platform’s shortcoming (though unlikely – so far they are taking extremely defensive and ignorant stance regarding WPF/Silverlight problems).