I spoke to Dean Guida, CEO at Infragistics, maker of components for Windows, web and mobile development platforms. Windows developers with long memories will remember Sheridan software, who created products including Data Widgets and VBAssist. Infragistics was formed in 2000 when Sheridan merged with another company, ProtoView.
In other words, this is a company with roots in the Microsoft developer platform, though for a few years now it has been madly diversifying in order to survive in the new world of mobile. Guida particularly wanted to talk about IgniteUI, a set of JQuery controls which developers use either for web applications or for mobile web applications wrapped as native with PhoneGap/Cordova.
“The majority of the market is looking at doing hybrid apps because it is so expensive to do native,” Guida told me.
Infragistics has also moved into the business iOS market, with SharePlus for SharePoint access on an iPad, and ReportPlus for reporting from SQL Server or SharePoint to iPad clients. Infragistics is building on what appears to be a growing trend: businesses which run Microsoft on the server, but are buying in iPads as mobile clients.
I asked Guida how the new mobile markets compared to the traditional Windows platform, for Infragistics as a component vendor.
“The whole market’s in transition,” he says. “People are looking at mobility strategy and how to support BYOD [Bring Your Own Device], all these different platforms, and a lot of our conversations are around IgniteUI. We need to reach the iPad, and more than the iPad as well.”
“There’s still a huge market doing ASP.NET, Windows Forms, WPF. It’s still a bigger market, but the next phase is around mobility.”
What about Windows 8, does he think Microsoft has got it right? Guida’s first reaction to my question is to state that the traditional Windows platform is by no means dead. “[Microsoft] may have shifted the focus away from Silverlight and WPF, but the enterprise hasn’t, in terms of WPF. The enterprise has not shifted aware from WPF. We’ve brought some of our enterprise customers to Microsoft to show them that, some of the largest banks in the world, the insurance industry, the retail industry. These companies are making a multi-year investment decision on WPF, where the life of the application if 5 years plus.
“Silverlight, nobody was really happy about that, but Microsoft made that decision. We’re going to continue to support Silverlight, because it makes sense for us. We have a codebase of XAML that covers both WPF and Silverlight.”
Guida adds that Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are “great innovation”, mentioning features like Live Tiles and people hub social media aggregation, which has application in business as well. “They’re against a lot of headwind of momentum and popularity, but because Microsoft is such an enterprise company, they are going to be successful.”
How well does the XAML in Infragistics components, built for WPF and Silverlight, translate to XAML on the Windows Runtime, for Windows 8 store apps?
“It translates well now, it did not translate well in the beginning,” Guida says, referring to the early previews. “We’re moving hundreds of our HTML and XAML components to WinJS and WinRT XAML. We’re able to reuse our code. We have to do more work with touch, and we want to maintain performance. We’re in beta now with a handful of components, but we’ll get up to 100s of components available.”
What about Windows on ARM, as in Surface RT? “We fully support it,” says Guida, though “with a straight port, you lose performance. That’s what we’re working on.”