Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Infragistics Charts a New Course for Windows Phone


Infragistics Charts a New Course for Windows Phone

The XAML mobile controls are based on the same APIs as the desktop and are consistent, from a developer standpoint, with the company's UI controls for Windows Presentation Foundation and Silverlight.

Infragistics Inc. released a suite of its data visualization controls for Windows Phone developers at the end of June, after previewing the mobile UI technology in April. The XAML mobile controls, which support Windows Phone 7 gestures and the Metro UI, are available to licensed users of the company's NetAdvantage Ultimate 2011 Volume 1 suite, which shipped in early June. NetAdvantage for Windows Phone 2011 Volume 1 is also available as a standalone suite.

The Windows Phone controls, many of which are mobile versions of the company's widely used desktop counterparts, include a bar code and bar code reader, data chart, bullet graph, gauge, info box, treemap, message box, slider and dialog window. The XAML mobile controls are based on the same APIs as the desktop and are consistent, from a developer standpoint, with the company's UI controls for Windows Presentation Foundation and Silverlight. Volume 1 offers a heavy dose of data visualization and interactive charting capability for mobile dashboards, app navigation and analytics.

"We took some of our data visualization controls that you see across our other suites, specifically in the XAML suites, and ported them and made them optimized for the Windows Phone experience," said Jason Beres, vice president of Product Management at Infragistics. "With the mobile form factor, we looked at where there was a gap in the market and data visualization was a key area."

With the popular data chart control, for example, Infragistics modified some of the rendering capability so that it made sense for the smaller CPU of the phone. The data chart consists of 15-20 charts and most of the trend lines that you would expect in a financial or trend chart. A financial charting control also provides more than 20 chart types. "We allow anyone to build their own custom indicators in the chart to show various trending," said Beres.

The mobile UI suite bridges some gaps found in Microsoft controls, according to Beres, with more customization supported in controls such as the dialog window and message box, for example.

"The goal is to allow developers to use our controls to build those applications that are a little bit beyond your standard line of business, a little bit beyond just showing data in a list box," he said. "If you want to have any sort of visualization, you don't get that in the box with Microsoft or really from anyone on the market today."

Mango Update
NetAdvantage for Windows Phone controls support the current release of Microsoft's mobile operating system but will be updated to support upcoming versions of the platform, according to Beres. Infragistics has done smoke testing with the Windows Phone "Mango" update, which was released to Windows Phone developers last week. The Mango update is expected on Windows Phones before the end of the year.

"The important thing about Mango, why people are excited about it," said Beres, "is the performance enhancements in the API…. For example, if you need to figure out what is inside of a list using techniques like reflection, Mango has better support for that, so some of the code in the current components and applications goes away to a simpler model that is way more performant."

Windows Phone is a natural extension for many companies that have already invested in Microsoft technologies, according to Beres. "A lot of the developers that I'm talking to aren't in charge of making those decisions so it's really the executives or IT at a lot of these places looking at a phone for multiple reasons. It is not just necessarily because it is the coolest phone or it has the better app store. It could be because of the security features and integration with other tools and Windows Phone really does have all of those characteristics."

NetAdvantage for Windows Phone supports Visual Studio 2010 and Windows Phone 7. As a standalone SKU, the MSRP is $995 or $1,495 with priority support.

NetAdvantage Ultimate 11.1 includes updated UI toolsets for ASP.NET, Windows Forms, Windows Presentation Foundation and Silverlight. It also marks the debut of a new JavaScript framework based on jQuery, which offers the first Infragistic controls that support HTML5. As part of NetAdvantage Ultimate 11.1, Infragistics also released a preview of its NetAdvantage Reporting for generating reports on WPF and Silverlight clients – no server is required. NetAdvantage Reporting is expected to ship sometime in Q3, according to Beres. The MSRP for NetAdvantage Ultimate is $1,895 or $2,395 with priority support.

Info-Tech Research Group Inc. gave Infragistics a "Champion" ranking among component vendors that offer Web, desktop and mobile toolsets in a June report, Vendor Landscape Storyboard: Application Development Tools. Infragistics and ComponentOne were both ranked in the highest quadrant. Among Infragistics' strengths, according to Info-Tech are "strong components, controls and tools for Windows Phone 7."

Challenges include a slightly higher price point for the Ultimate package than competitors "but ROI increases with time due to lower renewal costs," according to the researchers. Support for other mobile platforms is another challenge, according to Info-Tech, although iPhone and Android specific-functionality is on the way.

Info-Tech's recommendation to developers who are considering component vendors and the NetAdvantage Ultimate UI tooling: "The inclusion of automated UI testing, report writing, support for HTML5, and platform independent visual designers make Infragistics a top choice for any development group."