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Q&A with DevExpress CTO Julian Bucknall

It's not often that I get completely beyond "marketing speak" to hear about what the business side of the Visual Studio/.NET toolspace is really like. My talk with Julian M. Bucknall, chief technology officer at DevExpress is one of those occasions.

Peter Vogel: What does the control suite market look like from DevExpress' point of view?

Julian M. Bucknall: I would say that the control suite market is essentially 6 to 9 months ahead of the main application market. In other words, we have to look ahead to 6 months down the road and try and work out what applications our customers might be writing then. For enterprise customers, it's likely to be pretty much what they're writing now: the rate of change for "departmental software" is fairly slow, I reckon, since there's never enough time/resources to investigate new platforms and so on. If you like, most corporate software development is now particularly "early adopter" stuff. Other customers have a greater requirement for support for new platforms and the like.

So, in essence, we see Silverlight on the rise (although I'm not really sure how much further it can go, so it may have reached a peak by mid-year), WPF going into a fall (Silverlight 5 will rob market from its older/larger brother), WinForms staying steady (the good old departmental software tends to be WinForms still), ASP.NET slowly dropping, but MVC rising. After that, it's hard to gauge: we'll have to see the effects of ASP.NET MVC 3 and Silverlight 5.

Mobile development will certainly be on the rise, and my gut feel is that it'll be web development that will win out for control vendors, rather than native controls.

PV: Is there a unique value that DevExpress brings to the suite market? Or, to put it another way, how does DevExpress compete in this market?

JMB: I've said this for a long while: the selling of controls is a commodity market. All controls of a certain type from every vendor work in essentially the same way and have much the same functionality. The edge cases are different certainly (X may be faster than Y in a certain scenario, Y may be more stable than X in another, you as a developer may prefer the object model and API of X versus Y) but overall it's like buying milk.

So, in order to differentiate ourselves, we not only concentrate on performance and stability but on the services associated with selling controls: purchasing, support, documentation, video tutorials, webinars, evangelism, attending and sponsoring user groups and codecamps. We want to assure our customers that they're not abandoned once we have received their purchase money.

Posted by Peter Vogel on 02/02/2011

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