In-Depth

Profile: Bells and Whistles, Out of the Box

Infragistics' development tools simplify the lives of busy coders. See what CEO Dean Guida has to say.

"Users want rich media interfaces," says Infragistics CEO Dean Guida. Infragistics, the maker of presentation-layer development toolset NetAdvantage, helps developers create the robust, feature-rich applications users demand with a minimum of time and coding.

When Shaun Hayword's team at IKO had three and a half weeks to put together a 10-week project, "thanks to NetAdvantage, we were able to finish two days ahead of that ludicrous deadline," Hayword says. Another Infragistics customer concurs. "You can throw up a Web page in 30 minutes," says Rollie Burke of Automated Information Systems.

As the corporate user base expands to include everyone from factory floor workers to stockbrokers, application developers strive to accommodate a range of knowledge bases and computing demands. Infragistics tries to anticipate not only the needs of developers but of end users as well. "We have a whole visual design team working directly with the engineering teams," says Guida, "working on new ideas about what we could build to create compelling interfaces with animation, video, and audio."

So what do developers want, specifically? "High-performance Web components for both rendering the UI and retrieving data," he says. "They want us to help them build a consistent UI experience—whether they're building thick or thin client applications—and they want more tooling to easily design and use our UI components. They also want us to innovate with new UI metaphors and make it easy for them to have commercial class user interfaces."

One of the company's newest components in NetAdvantage, the Data Presenter, offers grid and carousel view capabilities. The Chart function provides rich 3D data visualization. It's all a far cry from the green-screen UIs of yesteryear.

In the traditional application-development model, design plans start on whiteboards or in PowerPoint and only later move to the development team. "We're trying to help designers and software developers work more closely together," Guida explains. "It's rare to find an individual that has excellent skills in [both] application development and design. So when you can synthesize teams of designers and software developers, you can create applications that deliver usability, [plus] visually connected and engaging effects, and you can convey a lot of information without overwhelming the user."

Infragistics grew from a merger of ProtoView Development, a Java, C, and C++ tools company, and Sheridan Software, a maker of Visual Basic tools. Guida says that with the coming of the .NET initiative, "both companies were going to have to retool their product lines and get customers to upgrade. We felt we had a much stronger company by merging and going out with a new product line."

The two companies merged on paper in late 2000, and "within three months we had put our two teams together, defined a product roadmap, developed a Web site, and coordinated our channel marketing efforts." They hit the ground running in 2001 as Infragistics. With months of preparation behind them, "nobody stood around asking what was going to happen," Guida concludes.

Four years and many iterative product releases later, Infragistics offers NetAdvantage, TestAdvantage (an automated testing tool), and JSuite, components for AWT, JFC, and JavaBeans. The company plans to expand its services offerings into mentoring and architectural services, as well as training and support. "We make very little money in services as of now, but 20 to 30 percent of revenue in the future could come from services...This year we launched classroom training and e-learning," says Guida.

In the meantime, "We're putting a lot of time and effort into the quality of the product," he continues. "Two phrases are popular around here: 'Delight the customer' and 'The voice of the customer.'"

The customers, it seems, feel their voices have been heard. "Their support is fantastic," says IKO's Hayword. "In one situation, they even gave me guidance into designing some of my business objects to make them compatible with Microsoft standards." Other customers agree, noting that feature additions or changes they've suggested often show up in later releases of NetAdvantage. "They've very responsive," adds Daniel Dugger, owner of Computer Consultants of Franklin.

Infragistics has been growing at a healthy 40 percent clip for the past three years, and expects to close out 2005 with $16 million to $18 million in revenues. In 2006, inflation, overleveraged consumers, and the general state of the economy might temper growth, "but we have a really good vision of where we're going with the product line," says Guida.

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