James Gosling was giving a talk at BT on the future of Java (the evening was very well organised by Philip Milne - thanks for the invite & lovely curry! :) - and James is a thoroughly nice chap & much taller than he looks online :)
In the Q&A I asked, if he had a magic wand and could change anything in the Java ecosystem (platform, language etc) what would it be? His answer was getting WebKit into the Java platform via JWebPane! Awesome - go James! Along with closures in the Java language that would be mine too as I've mentioned before. Apparently work is still progressing on JWebPane - so despite the total silence for nearly a year, it may hopefully one day see the light of day. I just hope Sun releases something soon - it doesn't have to be perfect, then we can fix it in open source as a community.
I do wonder if the JWebPane guys have been a bit too ambitious for the first release (e.g. all the stuff about using Java2D and Swing JTextField widgets within a web kit pane etc). Just having a webkit panel which you can communicate with via Java & interact with the DOM via Java would be rocking! The other stuff I'm less sure on how important that is (e.g. the super tight integration of swing widgets with the DOM widgets - just being able to place swing widgets inside the DOM would be fine).
For the others, they all pretty much agreed we need awesome browse integration in the JVM - it would open up a massive amount of potential for rich applications which embrace the web but work around the limitations of browsers (networking & security limitations) and above all the biggest issue with developing on the web - dealing with the zillions of ancient crappy browsers. Instead building rich applications on the JVM using a modern embedded webkit wouldn't have those issues & would make creating web apps way more fun :)
Quite a few folks replied with links to existing projects similar in scope to JWebPane which I should just mention...