This evening I read a provocative piece on a blog by FunkyCodeMonkey, the thinking monkey. (I can't tell you how amazed I am that a monkey can actually write this well. They sure have come a long way since Yerkish!) Anyway, the piece is very brief, and the title sums it up "No Last Minute Comeback for the Applet." I'm basically quoting it in its entirety:
I’ve been playing around with the Flex 3 builder lately and I’ve come to the sad conclusion that JSP’s future role in the java webapp will be severely limited and the venerable Java Applet is already a dead man walking. Flex has a interface that seems, so far, seems to be much easier to use than even the most modern Swing tools. It’s easier I think because there is only one GUI toolkit. No SWT vs Swing battles happening here. The Flex tool chain seems to have been made by a team made of both engineers and designers. A nice change of pace from what comes from Sun, IBM, Oracle and the rest of the Java sausage party.
While a part of me wishes it weren't the case, I must admit that FunkyCodeMonkey's position has a lot of strength (except for that gratuitous "Java sausage party" line.) Flex is really well thought out, and I have been impressed by how much can be achieved at the UI level with very little code and with strong support from GUI design tools. It took years for Swing to get anywhere close, but Flex and AIR are just getting warmed up.
On the other hand, there's a lot of work being invested into the presentation layers of the upcoming Java6uN. Sporting improved look&feel and hardware acceleration, Java6uN may be a formidable contender that gives Java new legs in the race. Is it too little, too late? Is the Java Applet (and web-delivered application)"already a dead man walking" regardless of what 6uN may deliver?