I finally downloaded the latest JDK 6 u 10 (download) recently. This is a significant release for the (once again battle front) Desktop. At this year’s JavaOne, Sun made it known that it has all intentions of going back to the desktop. Update 10 is one of many shots, that, the hardware-originated organization plans to take at its competitors as it transforms itself (i think) into a media/content company (see Project Hydrazine and JavaFx).
Anyway, after I downloaded update 10, I headed to the one location where I know I will find plenty of applets: http://processing.org/
Processing is an interesting project that started at MIT where Java is used as the center piece for teaching interactive art. It comes with an IDE and its sole purpose is to quickly create compelling visualization interactive Applets. The project has, since, expanded to include a hardware platform (hardware.processing.org) and even a Java ME port (mobile.processing.org). Click above to explore other aspect of processing (go directly to the showcases or links)
Back to the applets. With the latest update, all of the applets that I looked at so far took seconds to render (on my 2 yrs old machine). Once the JRE is loaded, applets rendered in seconds, some near instantaneously. Applets that manage the download process cleverly (with a splash screen or spinning wheel, etc) provides the sort of rich media experiences that you come to expect now a day online.
I won’t say that Java applets will dethrone the king of online rich media (rhymes with Flash). But, if these improvements keep up, Adobe will certainly have welcome competition in this arena. This is certainly good news for developers (choice is good) and will be a boon for the end users.