The Apache Pivot project, an open-source rich Internet application framework for Java that has been in development for three years, officially hatched out of the foundation’s incubator today. Its creators say Pivot 1.4 is ready to compete with Adobe’s Flex and Microsoft’s Silverlight for RIA development mindshare.

Greg Brown and Todd Volkert, creators of the Apache Pivot project, met while they worked together at VMware. Brown has since left for a Boston-based consulting startup, but the pair remained in contact to continue Pivot’s development. Brown said the biggest benefit of using Pivot is that it allows developers to remain in a Java environment from client to server.

Naturally, Google Web Toolkit and JavaFX would come to mind as alternatives for building Web-based RIAs, but Volkert said that both do not offer pure Java to developers. “We satisfy the need for those who want to write RIAs in Java, or in JVM-compatible languages,” said Volkert.

“Some people counter by saying GWT is Java. But with GWT, you don’t get to use the full array of Java APIs. GWT is Java 1.5, but even within that it’s a limited subset of the full JDK, which is pretty limiting if you want to do some of the things you need to do in an RIA.”

As for JavaFX Script, Brown said that the language is not pure Java, either. Though JavaFX is based on Java, it uses its own markup language, he said.

Pivot is not intended to compete with GWT and JavaFX for Java RIA interest, but rather it is intended to offer an alternative to Flex and Silverlight for Java developers, said Brown.

Apache Pivot includes a number of features designed to mimic the development features of those other platforms. Brown and Volkert said they like to think they’ve learned from the other RIA frameworks in the market, and that their project will make Java at least equal with other RIA platforms.

The incubator helped to prepare the pair for Pivot’s new life as an open-source project at Apache. Brown said the incubator was more about preparing the project for a community than about adding any specific code or capabilities. Now that Pivot is ready for primetime, said Brown, it can formally bring the power of Java to the client.

“The Java language has a huge library of existing functionality out there. We wanted to leverage that on the client-side,” said Brown.