The DevExpress 2008 Roadmap

2008 promises to be an extremely interesting year for DevExpress and our customers. Like as the previous one

Last year at this time we introduced our roadmap for 2007 with the following words: "2007 promises to be an extremely interesting year for DevExpress and our customers. Companies like Microsoft and CodeGear, companies that directly affect what we do, are planning a number of new technologies and products this year." This year, the situation really hasn't changed and we could start this roadmap off with exactly the same sentiment, merely replacing "2007" with "2008".

From the viewpoint of the start of the year, looking out over the landscape that is 2008, we can see some major landmarks and a lot of fog. Visual Studio 2008 is due to be officially launched at the end of February, though many customers will have obtained it from MSDN by now. It has already had a major impact and will continue to do so. Microsoft, in the guise of Scott Guthrie, has promised a beta of Silverlight 2.0 with a GoLive license at the end of the first quarter. There's a new version of Microsoft Blend in the works. CodeGear are promising a new 32-bit Delphi with Unicode support in the VCL and generics.

Unfortunately, although we can see these landmarks, we can't see the details. This, in turn, makes it somewhat difficult to plan new features that can take advantage of them. Just as a simple example: although we're ready to welcome a beta of Silverlight 2.0 for which we can sell controls, we have no idea what is going to be included in the beta and therefore what we should be designing and implementing for it.

Before we go into some details on our roadmap, we would like to issue a word of warning. These plans are our best estimate at this point in time for what we should be able to do given our resources and our understanding of the technology landscape in which we operate. In particular, we cannot emphasize enough that the vagueness and ambiguity introduced by WPF (especially with regard to the Visual Studio and Blend designers) and Silverlight 2.0 means that there is a large uncertainty about our plans starting in the second quarter of the year. The error bars at this point of the roadmap are fairly large. Any dates given are estimates and any functionality we describe, especially the further out it is, may be postponed and replaced with something else. We would 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. Of course, having said that, the plans for the first quarter are well advanced and fairly fixed.

We have some overall targets. We are aiming to provide three major releases of DXperience, our control and framework package for .NET development. Those releases should be roughly March, June/July, and October/November. As usual we will be releasing minor updates that fix bugs and introduce minor functionality every month or so. The IDE tools, CodeRush and Refactor! Pro will probably release once a quarter, although we are making some major efforts to tie in the IDE products on the same schedule as DXperience. We plan to release a major version of our VCL subscription package once every four months, again tracking the DXperience release schedule. Our VCL plans at this stage will include support for C++Builder 2007 always assuming we can get past the technical issues that still confront our efforts for this compiler and IDE.

WinForms Controls Roadmap

With the slow yet inexorable rise of WPF, it might be thought that WinForms applications would be going the way of the dodo. From our sales viewpoint, not at all. It is still as yet unclear whether or how WPF can help business applications that require a sophisticated user interface. Hence we are continuing to invest in WinForms controls in 2008, even as we research and implement the new WPF controls.

Expected this year are a control for easily creating wizard pages (a popular request from our customers, and enthusiastically promoted); implementing server mode for XtraPivotGrid (just like the XtraGrid and ASPxGridView when working with large amounts of data); a rich text editor control (another popular request); and a set of gauge controls, with possibly a dashboard control. Furthermore, we will be looking into providing built-in support for UI testing tools like Automated QA's TestComplete and HP's QuickTest Professional (previously marketed by Mercury).

With regard to the scheduler, we're going to be providing a Gantt timeline view, and we're looking to improve the printing functionality for our DXperience customers by using XtraReports as the printing engine. In the first quarter, we will also be providing more design-time wizards, especially for mapping scheduler data to fields in your persistence store. There will be better support for iCal 2.0.

ASP.NET Controls Roadmap

2007 was a roller-coaster ride for our ASP.NET team. Not only did they produce a whole set of new controls for improving the user experience of your web applications, they also embraced the ASP.NET AJAX framework (previously codenamed Atlas), and then implemented a new generation ASP.NET grid control, the ASPxGridView. Not only that but they laid down the infrastructure for processing and displaying many thousands of records quickly and simply, which we have now ported to our XtraGrid on WinForms, and our soon-to-be beta WPF grid. We are certainly proud of their achievement: the only ASP.NET grid that has this extremely valuable functionality.

This year, they will not be resting on their laurels. For the first quarter, we are planning on releasing a tree list and an HTML editor as new products. As regards added functionality, the ASPxGridView will be getting filtering in the column headers, sorting by summary, a footer template, and the ability to export selected records. We could possibly get the spellchecker in there too, but it may appear later in the year.

The same wizards that are being implemented for the WinForms scheduler will also appear in the ASPxScheduler, as will the better iCal support.

Later in the year we'll be providing more enhancements to the grid and the pivot grid. We are also discussing some other ASP.NET controls, but we don't want to force our hand yet by announcing them. Again, we shall be paying attention to Silverlight 2.0 beta when it arrives, since that will probably affect what we do for ASP.NET later on.

WPF Controls Roadmap

First of all, we'll be releasing the beta of our new WPF charting product, probably in the first quarter. At least in this guise, it will probably not be aligned with a DXperience release. The full version will then appear in the second quarter, based on customer feedback. We'll then start adding 2D charts to the WPF product.

Also in the second quarter, we will be releasing the beta version of our WPF grid and associated editors. Since the demos we gave in November in Las Vegas, the underlying infrastructure for the grid has changed as we learned more about the WPF platform and framework. Of course, during the same period, we finally received Visual Studio 2008 and learned the full extent of the designer support in the IDE, at least in this initial version. Unfortunately, it seems that we third-party control vendors have a lot to do since these features are still very primitive. With luck, and again based on customer feedback, we should be able to release the final version sometime in the summer.

Silverlight 2.0 Controls Roadmap

We've just recently shown off some exploratory layout controls for Silverlight from our Area51 labs, but that's about as far as we can profitably experiment without knowing more about the new beta Silverlight 2.0 framework. And, unfortunately, we will only know more details the same time as everybody else when the beta is released. Expect more news on our support for Silverlight 2.0 at that time.

Charts Roadmap

Our charting product, XtraCharts, stands poised, ready to take advantage of some very important and impressive new functionality that we want to deliver throughout the year.

The first item on the agenda will be the anticipated release of the beta of the WPF charts product in the first quarter. Since the time we showed off the demo in November last year, we've been working hard on the WPF-specific infrastructure for these charts, especially for the animations, and in isolating non-presentation-specific core code from our main charting product.

With WPF, we'll initially be including two major chart families (pie and bar), and with these families you will be able to display six different chart types (pie, exploded pie, doughnut, exploded doughnut, bar, and column). Legend titles and series labels are available and can be fully customized and styled in XAML. Zooming and rotations are supported, and since series labels are located in a 3D geometry, they even get hidden by the chart as you rotate.

For the existing product, in the first quarter we will provide Spline charts in 2D and 3D, Line, Area, Stacked Area, Full-Stacked Area formats, together with chart serialization to XML. Spline charts enable you to create smooth curves instead of jagged straight lines through your chart's series points, and we also provide properties to tighten or loosen the curve.

The serialization support not only provides a way to load or store a chart within the IDE, for example, but also provides Viewstate serialization as well, which will enable us to provide much better medium trust support on the ASP.NET platform.

Further out this year, we're planning to provide smart labels, summarization features, bubble charts, trend lines, and ASP.NET zoom and scroll for 2D charts. For WPF, we'll be adding various 2D chart types. Of course, we shall also be evaluating the upcoming Silverlight 2.0 to see whether we can easily port the charts product to that platform too.

Reports Roadmap

We've made our name with reporting by providing the essential features you want in an easy-to-use designer in the IDE you use every day. And then made them work in both WinForms and browser applications.

This year we're going to be expanding on this simple idea, not by adding features you would hardly ever use in an effort to improve checkbox comparisons, but by polishing what we have with some must-have functionality.

In the first quarter we will be adding an important feature for your web applications: if your user has Adobe Reader installed, you will be able to print your reports through that program's print engine. This will avoid those problems when the browser won't allow you to set all the page options for your report. We will be making your experience in the designer better by improving the way our reports accept and override styles. We're also adding a cross-tab control to the report designer to avoid the need for our pivot grid. We're also making it easier for you to deploy your reporting applications to Web Farms so that resources in your reports (items like images for example) are more easily shared across servers.

For the later releases, we're going to be providing a couple of major features. The first is adding support for expressions and incorporating a formula wizard to help you create them, and the second is the ability to create the first page of the report using another thread so that you can quickly show this page in the preview, improving your users' experience in certain scenarios.

Also later in the year we will be looking at providing support for reports in both WPF and Silverlight 2.0. However, as has already been stated, there is a lot of uncertainty in this space, and that translates to plans that will change dramatically.

.NET Frameworks Roadmap

During last year, XPO (eXpress Persistent Objects) became one of the mainstays of our products when we added the server mode support in our XtraGrid and ASPxGridView controls. Using this support, these grids are undisputably the fastest grids for WinForms and ASP.NET respectively for displaying and navigating large datasets. We certainly intend to incorporate this support in our WPF and Silverlight grids when the time comes.

One of the issues with this support, however, is the IListServer interface we use. We only provide one implementation of this interface at the moment, but we shall be providing a LINQ server implementation early in the year to provide WinForms and ASP.NET LINQ-enabled grid controls capable of handling very large datasets.

As for XPO itself, we have some architectural changes in store. These will enable even better, more efficient XAF applications to be created, as well as provide advantages for other complex applications based on XPO.

XAF (eXpressApp Framework) was finally released right at the end of last year, and, at the same time, we made available our new DXperience Universal package to incorporate it. Since XAF is a very complex product and only just released, we want to give our highest priority to customer feedback and requirements for the first part of the year. We are committed to making XAF into a useful tool for all our customers, but we assume that the number of modifications and improvements to existing modules is going to be higher than average early in 2008. Nevertheless we will try to deliver as many new features as we can.

At the moment the list of new features for second quarter onwards include Pivot grid support, XtraCharts support, an improved BCL structure that allows for flexible domain-specific module creation, a CRM (and probably at least one other) domain-specific module, and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) integration.

IDE Tools Roadmap

Towards the end of last year we spent some time producing a new infrastructure for the 3.x versions of our IDE tools. The main reason for this was to be able to produce a flexible architecture for our new code issues and code providers technology, and this year we shall be capitalizing on this work.

For CodeRush, the first quarter will provide the full UI for working with code issues. We've also been listening to customers' feedback and will provide a better story for updating and sharing your templates. And as we move our JavaScript support out from beta into the full release, we'll introduce beta support for F#. Throughout the year, we will provide more code issue detectors, more code providers, and more navigation providers.

Of course, we shall be providing powerful new refactorings in Refactor! Pro, but most certainly fewer than the 75 refactorings we introduced in 2007. Some of the major ones include Push Down and Pull Up for moving members up and down a class hierarchy, Safe Move Member for moving a member to another class while keeping the original signature in the original class (that simply calls out to the newly moved member), Introduce Parameter and Inline Argument for moving an expression into and outside of a method, and many others.

As we progress through the year we will be doing a lot of work to exploit the synergies between CodeRush (especially the code issues and the code provider technology) and Refactor! Pro. Our intent here is to not only show code issues but also deliver refactorings that will resolve those issues. We'll also be talking about and showing you how to write your own code issue analyzers and code providers to plug into our free extensible framework, the DXCore.

VCL Roadmap

Last year was the first full year for CodeGear and they managed to produce three major releases that affected our market. Compared to this same time in 2007, we feel more optimistic about the Delphi, C++Builder, and VCL market in 2008 and are prepared to invest and maintain our position as the premier third-party control vendor for the VCL market.

Last year we took some heat for not supporting C++Builder in our ExpressSkins product. We feel that it was the right decision to make at the time, but we recognize that we should modify our stance based on the feedback we received. We have therefore decided to support C++Builder 2007 providing we can overcome the technical issues presented by the compiler and IDE.

We aim to have three major releases of our VCL Subscription package this year, once every four months. In the first quarter we will release ExpressNavBar Suite 2.0 and ExpressScheduler Suite 3.0. The second major release will contain ExpressPivotGrid 2.0 and a new spell checker product; and in the fourth quarter ExpressQuantumTreeList 5.0, possibly with another major product update. Of course, we shall continue to provide bug fixes and minor functionality throughout.

Although we are still finalizing details on the later releases, we can say that the new ExpressNavBar 2.0 will include Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows Vista look-and-feel views as well as numerous other improvements, and the new ExpressScheduler Suite 3.0 will include a Gantt view, holiday support, and many changes to the look-and-feel to mimic Microsoft Outlook 2007.

The major Delphi release from CodeGear in 2008 is promised mid-year and it will contain a new compiler and VCL that support Unicode. At the time of writing, we have no real way of estimating accurately the effort and resources needed to support these large-scale changes in our products. It may be that the effort is minimal and won't materially affect what we are planning to do the rest of the year, or we may find the opposite. We'll be able to refine our plans for the VCL products once we begin experimenting with the Tiburon field tests.

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