i agree with you that Java applets are superior to HTML forms. In fact JFC according to me has no parallels to match as far as GUI is concerned. It is a good medium for intranet setups.
But as far as the internet is concerned, there is no straight forward mechanism by which i can communicate with the server through an applet. Almost always we have to take recourse to some kind of tunnelling through http to send data from an applet to the saerver.
If the applet is going to be doing some complex calculations and not necessarily going to communicate with the server then it is the right solution. Then again the problem of cross-browser compatability and JVM versions in browsers have to be handled.
We cannot always relate the usage of a technology with products like SAP and Oracle. How many mid level organisations have the capability or expertise of these companies. From my experience i have seen, people settle down with JSP and html which increases product development life cycles drastically, compromising on the powerful GUI capabilities that applets provide.
When i say Client side of Java is dead, i compare it with the powerful capabilities that J2EE has brought on the server side, specifically with EJBs. That kind of a robustness and ease of use definitely lacks on the Client side.
As far as .NET is concerned, innovations are on a diffrent plane. While pure HTML is used on the client, client side validations have been beautifully handled by Server controls without we having to write a single line of code. The ease with which we can develop the frontends is astounding. HTML, Scripting for client side validation, and able to access client side data on the server side have all been seamlessly integrated. I can today develop a ASP.NET application in .NET in the same manner i have been developing VB applications for server side components. Drag, drop and write event based code. This is definitely not possible in J2EE environment.
AWT and Swing would have been successful for the internet only if the browsers had cooperated. As technologies definitely AWT and Swing are great, but when it comes to implementation for the internet they have problems. Interacting with client side components on the server is not as flexible as it is in .NET
That's my experience... You may contradict...