Monday, May 17, 2010

Grab Bag: Android, JavaFX, and the Allure of Software Engineering

There have been a few recent online articles and posts that I think deserve mention here. These are related to Android being good for Java, praise for the field of software engineering, and a sense of what Java developers think of JavaFX.

Software Engineering: High Pay, Low Stress?

A recent Yahoo! Finance posting of a Investopedia article (Five High-Paying, Low-Stress Jobs) list software engineering as one of their five jobs with high pay and relatively low stress. Some of us may not agree with the stress part, but it is not going out on a limb to say most of us do have less stress than a combat soldier (referenced in the article as an example of low pay and high stress). Under "Computer Software Engineer," the article states, "many software engineers can work from home, since their jobs can be done from practically anywhere. Software engineers also bring home steep salaries, normally ranging between $54,000-130,000 a year. There's nothing nerdy about that."

Another position closely related to software development also made this list of five professions proposed to be high pay and low stress: the technical writer. The other three careers on this list are civil engineer, physical therapist, and massage therapist.

Android: Bringing non-Java Developers to the Java Fold

One of the effects of the rapid rising popularity of Android-based telephones is the new entrants into Java's ecosystem of developers from non-Java environments. For example, the author of the blog post Android Development - Debugging Your App starts that post with the sentence clauses, "Coming from a Windows environment, specifically the .NET space," and then goes on to talk about debugging in Eclipse.

The significance of this, of course, is that a whole new group of developers with little or no Java experience are now essentially working with Java itself as they develop Android applications and are using tools of the Java ecosystem such as Eclipse. Java may have originally been targeted at the web browser (applets) and may have in recent years become known as a technology for the enterprise space, but now it appears that it could be the Android-based handsets that bring standard Java (but not Java ME nor JavaFX) a growing base of users. Who would have predicted this before Android?

Java Developers on the Future of JavaFX

A recent poll asked the question, "Will JavaFX ultimately become a widely used rich client technology?" None of us have a crystal ball and these polls are obviously non-scientific, but I thought the responses were pretty inline with my own opinions based on talking to other Java developers about JavaFX. The respondents seemed to really consider the issue and provide a fair personal assessment. There were also several good comments added.

To the question of whether JavaFX will become widely used as a rich client technology, well over half of the nearly 370 responses were either flat-out "No" (18%) or the little less sure "Probably Not" (a whopping 40%!). About 16% of the responses were the tepid "Maybe" while about the same percentage were more positive and answered either "It's already widely used" (2%) or the much more realistic "The Version 1.3 Improvements Make it Likely" (14%). I don't see how anyone can think that JavaFX is widely used currently (unless the interpretation of "widely used" differs significantly from mine) and the results show that few legitimately believe that to be the case.

There are several observations from this poll. First, JavaFX still has more people thinking it won't become a widely used rich client technology than those who think it will. Second, I think this poll shows once again that the Java development community (or at least the members of the community who read and participate in the polls) are cognizant of what's happening around them. Third, the comments on this poll are really worth reading. I think they sum up pretty well some of the major concerns the majority of Java developers who think about rich client technologies have about JavaFX.

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