2012 Roadmap - Silverlight, WPF, WinForms, ASP.NET, MVC, Reports, CodeRush - DevExpress

At this time last year, I pointed out the new technologies we'd be investing in during the year, everything from Silverlight 5 (but only just!) to ASP.NET MVC 3, and not forgetting Delphi 64-bit. We, of course, integrated them all into our products during 2011 to help you produce visually stunning applications no matter which Microsoft platform you use.

There was, however, one major new technology that emerged quickly as a new area of focus for us: the Developer Preview of Windows 8, with Metro, WinRT, and the rise of touch in Microsoft's long term plans. From the announcement in September at the //build/ conference, we put our development teams to work to provide you with the ability to begin your migration to Metro-inspired apps on the platforms you target today. As these new technologies were revealed, it became obvious to us that the industry is experiencing an inflection point, which will result in a new generation of tools from DevExpress. We called this shift "DXv2" to signal our intention to support this shift to touch-enabled, visually stunning, user-driven applications.

The computing world is changing. Users are expecting applications that not only function easily, but that are visually engaging to use and easy to learn. As users begin to think in "apps" we see expectations shift to agile solutions that address specific business problems. Users are also demanding use of their applications across devices and platforms. While in the office they are using their traditional client experience, when on the road they are utilizing their slates and iPads, and regardless of location they are on the phone. The acceleration of these user expectations presents challenges for IT departments and developers alike. At DevExpress we recognize that meeting your user's needs means not only using the tools and platforms you're familiar with today, but also learning new technologies to support these new user-driven scenarios. With DXv2 we are making a specific effort to build a bridge between the technologies you're familiar with (WinForms, WPF, ASP.NET, Silverlight) and new investment areas like WinRT, HTML5, and support for mobile solutions. We will take the step to the next generation with you and are excited to explore what the future holds.

So, what do we know of the future at this point in time? Simply put: 2012 is going to be the year of Visual Studio 11 and Windows 8. I don't see anything else on the horizon that is of such importance as these two technologies. Client development will evolve with WinRT, and ASP.NET (and MVC) will continue to grow in influence, especially with the tightening orbits around the whole HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript ecosystem.

To support these technology investments, DevExpress will provide you with the kind of designer-expressed, user-friendly, and developer-flexible controls for Metro and WinRT that you've come to rely on from our existing product line-up. While the landscape for Windows 8 is still unfolding and we are (like you) still working with a preview now five months old, you can rest assured that our best designers and developers are already working hard to encompass the new paradigms and the new devices that will be expected in support of this platform.

Again this year, we will be providing two major releases a year across all our platforms, with minor releases on a monthly basis. The first major release of the year will occur late in the second quarter, and the second late in the fourth quarter. We are very mindful of releasing our products, where possible, in tandem with the new releases from Microsoft, therefore we will be adjusting our roadmap to align to new information as it becomes available.

As is usual, though, I have to sound my standard note of caution. The roadmap is our best estimate at this point in time for what we should be able to do in 2012, given our resources and our understanding of the technology landscape in which we operate. Any dates given are estimates. Any functionality we describe in this roadmap, especially the further out it is, may be postponed or cancelled altogether. We strongly advise our customers not to make firm plans based on what they see here: in an industry such as ours, things can change very quickly and we have to react just as rapidly to new opportunities that may present themselves.

If that doesn't sound the requisite note, a stronger warning is needed. As I've said, we already know that the Microsoft technology outlook is going to change, however they are currently very reserved about the details. At this juncture we don't know exactly what will transpire: we've made our guesses but we are not clairvoyant.

Despite its age (it first debuted in 2002 and will be ten in 2012), WinForms is still an extremely important and valuable platform. Our Tile control form v2011.2 was extremely well received and helped rejuvenate excitement around building visually stunning WinForms applications. We shall continue to improve the touch capabilities of our controls (for example, our scheduler), as well as incorporate new designs inspired from VS11 and Metro. The scheduler will be improved with better animations for state changes. The pivot grid will gain filtering by summaries and a search box in the filter popup to give your users even more control over analyzing their data. We shall also optimize the pivot grid with MDX queries (like Microsoft Excel), add field list folders, and reduce memory consumption when ExpandAll is used. We shall continue to improve the RichEdit's floating objects support, and add footnotes and endnotes.

One major piece of functionality we shall be enhancing is our CodedUI testing support. We currently have full CodedUI support for our grid and editors, and we shall now extend this to the bars, menus, and ribbon, as well as the other grid-like controls. We also plan to make coded UI support only available to our Universal customers going forward.

A question we've heard often is how long we will continue to invest in WinForms products. Our answer is unambiguous: we will continue to build tools and controls for WinForms for as long as our customers demand it. It's a valuable platform and we are confident that this platform will continue to be critical to many developers and organizations alike.

Once DXv2 was released in November 2011, we found ourselves with a complete set of line-of-business (LOB) controls for both WPF and Silverlight: grid, tree list, editors, reporting, scheduling, pivot grid, charts, maps, and gauges. These controls have common APIs, code, and features, and include provisions for touch, and advanced design-time support. There are however some areas of the product line that we need to improve and it is those that we will concentrate on this year, using the time to polish and extend what we have. Areas include performance; better demos to help you learn and visualize what's possible and to explain our design/development philosophy for our controls; and improved theme support.

Alongside that, we have plans to add master-detail support to the grid, and improve the design-time data binding experience. The scheduler will be enhanced with a Gantt view and touch support will be improved. With regard to the pivot grid, we shall add OLAP KPI support, and per-pixel scrolling. We shall also optimize the pivot grid with MDX queries (like Microsoft Excel), add field list folders, and reduce memory consumption when ExpandAll is used. We shall continue to improve the RichEdit's floating objects support, and add footnotes and endnotes.

Over the past couple of years, the DevExpress ASP.NET Web Forms and MVC products have matured to become the most extensive and feature-rich ASP.NET controls available today. We're not done growing and improving them though: ASP.NET will continue to be a platform of major importance in the coming years. We have big plans in 2012 to improve the products, the development experience, the themes, and the demos and sample apps. These will provide a better and faster learning experience for our customers, and will help them leverage our controls and extensions to produce visually-stunning applications that are better than before.

Let's start with the commonality between ASP.NET Web Forms and ASP.NET MVC. First, we'll improve your Visual Studio experience by introducing new project templates and a wizard to make it easier to create new web projects that use DevExpress ASP.NET products. We shall also bring a Metro-inspired theme for our ASP.NET products in 2012.

We have several smaller features scheduled for release. For example, we hope to provide Excel-style multi-select filtering for the GridView and the versatile TreeList will be getting a vertical scrollbar. With regard to new controls, look out for an Image Gallery control, a TileControl and a Vertical Grid. The pivot grid will gain an OLAP dimension browser (like WinForms), support for ADOMD, filtering by summaries, and vertical scrolling. We shall also optimize the pivot grid with MDX queries (like Microsoft Excel), add field list folders, and reduce memory consumption when ExpandAll is used.

For ASP.NET MVC in particular, we'll be introducing a Scheduler extension that will provide many of the same great features as our ASPxScheduler control. That latter control will gain a Gantt view later in the year.

Of course, we'll be improving the ASP.NET products to support all the upcoming new Microsoft technologies like Internet Explorer 10, ASP.NET MVC 4, and new ASP.NET framework, as well as VS11.

Our goals in 2012 for our reporting products are to simplify and improve the user experience. To that end we need to improve the data abstraction layer (so that, for example, you will have the ability to preview data at design-time for any data source and have out-of-the-box support for query parameters), provide lookup parameters, more bar code types. Now that we have a Silverlight end-user report designer, we shall work on getting a similar thin-client (it will require the Report Server, just like the Silverlight one) WPF version out by the first release. We shall also complete our work on the Template Gallery.

In the second major release, expect to see such features as anchoring, PDF signatures, a more streamlined data export experience and an enhanced user experience for report imports. We shall also work on an integrated document outline.

Now that we have roughly the same functionality across all four major platforms, it's time we addressed some deficiencies in the product. We need to spend some time on a better developer experience (simpler charts should be simple to create with unsurprising defaults), on performance (optimization of the visual tree in XPF is one example), on the user experience (users like to interact with their charts so we have to improve our chart interactivity). Although we have a full range of chart types now, XPF still needs financial indicators, spline charts, and Gantt charts.

With regard to our map controls, we need to add support for various Bing services (routes, geocode, search), tooltips, map previews, and, perhaps most of all a WinForms Map control.

As for gauges, we hope to add an ASP.NET MVC gauges extension, and we are looking into improving our dashboard capabilities.

With each release of the eXpressApp Framework (XAF) we continue to raise the bar by delivering the robust environment developers need to build the scalable applications their users demand. As we move forward with XAF in 2012 our goal is to simplify the XAF development environment, helping you to discover all that the framework has to offer. New templates and wizards will help you get moving quickly, making sure to automatically incorporate some of the latest features (security, Application Server, Domain Components (DC) and so on) so they can be experienced with a single click. We will evolve our UI capabilities to support modern application guidelines, like the new Microsoft Metro design, so that your applications will be as beautiful as they are powerful.

For XAF, performance really matters. You can expect that your XAF applications will be faster, more responsive and scalable than ever before. We will strengthen our Application Server and shift towards a true thin client with everything on the server side. We will also decouple XAF from our eXpress Persistent Objects (XPO) library and allow other frameworks such as Entity Framework to be used.

XPO customers will enjoy a new visual designer in 2012 that builds persistent objects with ease and that will provide official OData support.

As always, we shall also devote some time addressing smaller but popular customer requests from our features backlog.

Last year was momentous for our VCL products. We changed to a subscription basis for all of the products and packages to help ensure that all customers are getting the latest updates and upgrades, rationalized our code to support a restricted set of IDEs, released full support for 64-bit Delphi XE2, and provided the usual set of new functionality and features. This year we have some catching up to our .NET products to do, especially in the area of touch and the ability to produce visually-stunning applications.

For the first major release of the year, our main milestones will be a tile control, an improved Ribbon (especially with regard to animations and screen tips) and tree list (such as adding a navigator, auto-enlarging an in place editor when necessary), as well as a perfected set of skins for terminal systems. We also expect to complete our ongoing work to provide server mode for the grid. Other minor features for other controls are slated for release as well.

For the second release, we will have finalized our Touch support for all our VCL controls, added more chart types for the Chart view, improved the bars and printing system libraries, as well as enhanced the Backstage view for the Ribbon. We'll also provide the usual large set of minor enhancements to various controls.

I should also point out that we will not be releasing any products that support FireMonkey this year, but that we shall continue to monitor its progress, especially as Embarcadero have traditionally published their annual release at the end of Q3.

Our goal with CodeRush is quite simple: continue in our efforts to be number 1 in performance, stability, and efficient memory use, as well as providing compelling and revolutionary features that others have difficulty replicating. We proved that conclusively with the release of Code Duplication Detection and Consolidation (DCC) in v2011.2, a feature that earned us a Jolt Award in January.

One consistent piece of feedback we get is that CodeRush can seem to be too "busy". Consequently we're going to develop a new "friction-free" mode by default in v2012.1 to provide a better experience for those developers who prefer a cleaner UI. There will also be an opt-in high-efficiency mode as well. Also, in both major versions, we will be solidifying our lead on DCC by providing new scenarios where DCC can make a difference to your code, as well as improving our Consume-First Declaration support.

As mentioned above, the HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript ecosystem is going to become more and more important, so expect to see advances in our support for those markup scenarios throughout the year.

Another unknown at this point is the amount of work needed for VS11 support, but rest assured we will be providing that as and when necessary.

Let's see what develops.

Thank you and best wishes,
Julian M Bucknall, CTO and The DevExpress Team