The default orange "Java logo" animation displayed while loading applets is a recurring topic on the Java forums, where developers consistently want something less intrusive and point out that competing technologies do not have a built-in splash screen. A recent mention of this (though not the only one) can be found at http://forums.java.net/jive/thread.jspa?threadID=52873 . It is pointed out on this thread that the Java coffee cup used as a placeholder when an applet has been dragged out of the browser is much more appealing.
Based on this feedback, we should seriously consider replacing the orange Java logo animation. One suggestion would be to use the same placeholder Java logo as in the dragged-out applet case, but with the curves for the steam animating back and forth, and a diminutive progress bar underneath. It could fade away in the same way as the current one to point to java.com if desired.
We should take this customer feedback to heart and implement a visual improvement in this area in the near future.