With an uncertain eye to the future of Windows, DevExpress this week announced an update to its DXperience suite of charts and controls for the Microsoft platform.

The release of DXperience v2011 “targets the end-user experience more and more,” said Julian Bucknall, CTO of DevExpress. A new Instant Feedback UI separates data gathering from the interface, so users clicking through pages don’t find the UI frozen while data is being collected from the back end, he said. “The delay is so frustrating for end users,” he said.

More frustrating, perhaps, for Microsoft’s partners is the shroud of secrecy around what’s happening with .NET. Bucknall said he’s waiting for the BUILD 2011 conference, set for September in Anaheim. The conference, which is replacing Microsoft’s PDC event, is expected to yield information on Windows 8, the next version of the operating system that will support HTML5, CSS 3 and JavaScript standards for Web development.

“We’re already planning our November release,” Bucknall said. “If we learn something new in September [at BUILD 2011], there’s not enough time to implement it.”

Silverlight 5 is coming out, but Microsoft isn’t saying anything about its future beyond that, nor of Windows Presentation Foundation, nor ASP.NET. This, Bucknall said, could cause problems.

“If you’re corporate IT and have an application that’ll take nine months to develop, you’ll use WPF because it’ll still be valid,” he said. “There’s more concern if there are longer-term plans. It’s very frustrating if they write the application, for example, for WPF, but Microsoft says in September it’s winding down.”

People, Bucknall said, want to write for platforms that are up and coming, not going away. To try to stay current, he said the company has added a package called Experience Analytics to its suite, which enables users to move widgets around on a screen as a first step toward creating dashboards.

“We’re keen on analytics, and we needed some way to allow the end user to move things around to create that ‘executive screen’ that business requires to assess the health of the organization,” he said. The company has added gauges for WPF and Silverlight, and has “put its toe in the water” with a new report viewer for Visual Studio LightSwitch, Microsoft’s self-service development tool for non-technical people to create business applications.

“It’s for techno-accountants who create their own Access databases and need to create a better UI, for example,” Bucknall explained.

For DevExpress, though, there is the fear that LightSwitch will be hugely successful, and Microsoft will build these types of controls into LightSwitch 2 themselves.

“Our customers look to us for direction, but it’s like the one-eyed man leading the blind,” Bucknall said.

A more hopeful perspective
But, as the saying goes, one man’s trouble is another man’s good fortune. Navot Peled, founder and president of Gizmox, maker of Visual WebGUI, said the emphasis in support for industry standards in Windows 8 presents “the biggest opportunity for Visual WebGUI since its inception.”

Visual WebGUI is a tool that enables the transformation of desktop code for the Web by creating a virtualization layer atop the Web server on the code level.

As Windows 8 is oriented toward HTML5 and JavaScript, Visual WebGUI—a native HTML solution, Peled pointed out—enables .NET developers to use the skills and tools they know to develop applications that can run as Web applications. “Visual WebGUI might be a bridge for developers concerned about keeping the skills they’ve learned over 10 years relevant,” he said.

Peled added that the company will release an HTML5, JavaScript-based development framework moving forward. For now, the company is focusing on Visual Basic 6 applications, as he said that 30 billion lines of VB code are still being used in organizations around the world, and VB6 won’t be supported in Windows 8.

As for Silverlight, he said, “It never had the adoption rate Microsoft was looking for. Silverlight is not the Web platform moving forward, and I don’t think it will last long as Microsoft’s mobile platform. It’s only a matter of time.”

Although it’s primarily a solution for automated transformation, a new “mapping studio” component of Visual WebGUI lets developers control the process of parsing code, loading it into an object model that represents the compile time of the application, and then cross-map it to anything else, explained Itzik Spitzen, Gizmox’s vice president of research and development.

Further, he said, the tool lets users split what he called “practically flat, functional type” VB6 code and extract interfaces or split out the business logic. Developers can even work on the source code during the migration process, fielding new requirements or fixing bugs, he said.