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SoftwareFX's plans in the Silverlight field

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0 comments   /   posted by Emil Stoychev on Nov 22, 2007
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A while ago SoftwareFX released cool Silvelverlight charts which show just how powerful Silverlight can be. Now they are sharing their experience and future plans with us.

1.      What difficulties are you facing?
Currently, Silverlight and its accompanying tools, like Microsoft Expression Blend, are difficult to work with from a third party perspective due to the infancy of the integration foundation. However, knowing Microsoft’s development practices this is natural and at some point integrating Silverlight components into Visual Studio 2008 and Microsoft Expression Blend will become seamless. I believe that is when vendors will take advantage of the platform and a third party market for Silverlight will thrive.
2.      What do you think about the Silverlight as a technology? Is it (or will it be) really a Flash-killer as it has been written in many blogs?
We don’t see Silverlight as a flash-killer but as a natural complement to Microsoft Web development technologies. It’s very difficult to make a ubiquitous technology, such as Flash, cease to exist; it not only has a strong footprint on the web but a solid company behind it. Therefore, Silverlight comes to provide a great complement for Microsoft developers. In addition, Silverlight timelines (time-based) greatly differ from Flash’s slide based animations, each of which provides its pros and cons.
We do see, however, a slight Silverlight advantage because of the wealth of third-party tools that will become available providing developers with very powerful and productive tools that would otherwise require specific knowledge in Flash. This packaged third party knowledge will be the ultimate advantage for Silverlight.
3.      Which is the coolest thing about it?
Timelines, the vectorial nature of it and, of course, integration with Visual Studio 2008.
4.      What do you miss in Silverlight?
Currently, only the third party control integration
5.      Are you adopting existing code or did you start from a scratch?
We adopted much of the server-side code from our Chart FX for Visual Studio 2005 (Chart FX 7) product.
6.      How is the overall performance?
We have not had any performance issues with Silverlight or Chart FX.
7.      How will the Silverlight be used – as a small part of a site showing multimedia content only or a whole sites based on it? There are plenty of sites completely written in Flash.
Not applicable to a product like Chart FX.
8.      Can we expect something before the official release of Silverlight 1.1 and if so will it be reliable and ready to use?
We currently provide a reliable and ready to use Silverlight solution in Chart FX for Visual Studio 2005 (Chart FX 7) that will continue and improve in future releases.
9.      Do you plan to release free control packs and/or with included source code before the official release of Silverlight 1.1?
The Chart FX Silverlight add-on is free of charge to existing Chart FX users.
10. What components can we expect from you?
Same as our .NET product line
11. How will the components be distributed – prices, packs?
Our Silverlight components will probably be packaged free of charge with their ASP.NET Server-based counterparts.
12. The Chart FX for Silverlight look amazing and they bring the experience that is most likely what the users (will) expect from Silverlight. But they aren’t actually real Silverlight controls. I mean, the developer can’t control how the chart looks like from the XAML and there is no design time support. Do you think that can eventually prevent developers to use them?
Your assessment is actually incorrect. The Chart FX Silverlight add-on provides a true Silverlight client control that you can change by editing the XAML. Currently, it provides a few properties we enabled so that Silverlight developers could control some aspects of it like the Gallery Type and we fire certain events that will allow other controls in the Silverlight application to interact with the chart to allow data drilldown and other important user interaction. This Silverlight control will be evolving slowly but surely. Actually, this is the control you will end up adding in Microsoft Expression Blend (which is not currently possible). At some point, this Silverlight Client control will provide a lot of design-time properties that you can setup by editing the XAML or interacting with the Blend properties. However, in the end, this practice of adding an unreasonable amount of properties to a Silverlight control is detrimental to the application. As a web-based technology, you con not divorce from the fact that there will always be a server on the back side, so why not leverage all of the infrastructure and facilities available to that server to make the process simpler and smoother. We believe this combination will, in fact, enhance performance and scalability and will simplify the development process.
As to design-time support, currently Chart FX provides the best design-time support via Visual Studio. When Blend provides third party integration, we will analyze which properties must be provided in the Silverlight Client, until then, Chart FX is the only Silverlight control that provides a full design-time experience.
We believe, what are preventing the adoption of Silverlight by developers are the restrictions imposed by Microsoft tools and the degree of separation that currently exists between these tools. When that gap is closed people will begin to embrace Silverlight and shortly after they will realize they value of third party tools like Chart FX. Until then, our goal is to position ourselves in this market and let our customers know that, as always, we are on top of emerging technologies. This is an evolving and slow process.
13. Do you have plans for more components – not only charts?
Currently our Chart FX offering for Silverlight includes charts, maps and diagrams; we will add Chart FX Gauges in the next few months.
14. What are your expectations for the market of Silverlight components? Do you expect new players?
With Microsoft Expression Blend, Microsoft diminished the possibilities for other IDE players to come into play. However, I think you will see a wealth of components from third party vendors in the next few years.
15. Is there anything you want to add?
Complement your Silverlight stories with WPF controls, we believe they will revolutionize how smart client apps look and interact, even more than Silverlight. Keep an eye on that market! 



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