Q & A with Software FX's President, Rene Garcia.
Chart FX for .NET is finally here, and if you’re into .NET development, we strongly encourage you to experience the powerful and unique features this product has to offer. We talked to Rene Garcia, President of Software FX, about the new Chart FX for .NET and its relevance to the Chart FX family of products.
Now that Chart FX for .NET has been released, what makes you the most proud about this product?

First, I have to say Chart FX for .NET is one of our greatest achievements. This product is the result of an organization that has progressed substantially, in all fronts, over the last couple of years. I’m particularly proud of our developers, designers and support people, who came together to produce this great piece of software.

In terms of features, I have to say we have made great improvements in the Chart FX for .NET visualization layer. We were able to exploit GDI+ and the .NET framework to allow developers to quickly and easily integrate impressive charts into their Windows Forms or Web Forms applications. For example, in Chart FX for .NET, the chart properties and default values were carefully studied and selected so developers need not spend a lot of time dealing with cosmetics.

It is also important to note, the improvements made in the visualization layer do not compromise performance or the product’s deployment capabilities; we managed to keep the Chart FX for .NET core at a very reasonable size (700KB).

Secondly, it is critical that developers be allowed to exploit the capabilities of a product without spending too much time on it. In essence, most developers don’t have time to dig around a complex product like Chart FX for .NET. To overcome this, Chart FX for .NET provides code generation tools like the Wizard and the Resource Center that allow them to integrate, run and then inspect the code behind the scenes, resulting in a short and accurate development cycle.

Finally, it is difficult to pinpoint the single greatest enhancement or feature, as there are too many in Chart FX for .NET. Our marketing efforts are geared to convince developers to download and install a trial version. After a quick inspection, I feel confident developers will give Chart FX for .NET serious consideration.

But all charting vendors seem to be pitching the same features for their products, how do you differentiate yourselves in what appears to be a highly competitive market?

We would like to position ourselves as a company that understands and addresses the most crucial business problems that developers face today, whether they are building COM or .NET applications. This philosophy has allowed us to concentrate on issues like performance, integration, ease-of-use, stability and support of our charting products.

Chart FX for .NET not only presents an impressive set of charting features but it was also developed with all the above mentioned issues in mind. For example, the Chart FX for .NET Wizard allows developers to dramatically reduce the learning curve by using an intuitive and elegantly designed interface. Similarly, with a core of just 700KB, Chart FX for .NET boosts performance and reduces memory requirements on both servers and client systems. Also, Chart FX for .NET supports most industry standards and provides one of the most comprehensive help and support resources seen from a component vendor.

I think many vendors have been too feature-centric and have ignored many of these crucial issues. In contrast, Software FX has presented itself as a mature organization, with great products, unparalleled support and a clear business vision. This, I would say, is the main difference between Software FX and other vendors.

You seem to have increased prices dramatically for your .NET offerings, why?

Software FX slightly increased pricing because of the high R&D and promotion costs associated with a product like Chart FX for .NET. However, most changes regarding pricing and licensing in Chart FX for .NET were geared to simplify the purchasing process and accommodate the new development paradigm Visual Studio .NET brings to the table. I’ll give you some examples:

Visual Studio .NET forces developers to test and debug Web Forms applications locally, this changed dramatically from the previous ASP developing mode of working against a single test/development server. To accommodate this, a Chart FX for .NET development seat (priced at $899) includes what was previously sold for $759 as a test/development server license, plus includes both design-time components for Windows Forms and Web Forms.

Additionally, in Chart FX for .NET we eliminated the additional CPU charge of $249. This was a major inconvenience for corporate customers who were often forced to go through purchasing twice to successfully install the product on a production server with more than 1 CPU. Chart FX for .NET has no CPU charges for additional microprocessors on the same servers. Furthermore, if additional servers are required; a single production server license is available at $1,599 in comparison to $1,399 for its COM predecessor.

Our marketing folks came up with a comparison that clearly illustrates that the price differences between our COM and .NET products are based on packaging rather than unsubstantiated increases. It can be viewed here.

Now that Chart FX for .NET has been released, do you expect a slowdown in sales for your COM based products?

Interestingly, while Chart FX for .NET initial sales have been lively, our COM products have experienced a significant increase in trial downloads and sales. We expect this trend to continue as the market takes the necessary time to shift to .NET. I attribute this to 2 factors:

Firstly, now that other vendors have moved to .NET, it almost seems like they are no longer advancing, supporting or promoting their COM based products, leaving potential customers with less options to compare. In contrast, Software FX believes COM will continue to play a critical role in the overall computing strategy of small, mid and large organizations. In the long run, IT departments, and more specifically developers, will be faced with maintenance and updates of legacy COM applications that will end up requiring front-end analysis tools like Chart FX Internet and Chart FX Client Server.

As a result, we are investing as much in our COM offerings as we are in .NET. For example, we are in the process of releasing a new Chart FX COM version that matches those features available in our .NET offering. This will not only bring the most exciting .NET features to our very stable COM products, but will open new integration possibilities among these two products.

Secondly, the release of Chart FX for .NET complements and advances our product line in a way that no other vendor can portray. This presents Software FX as a reliable and mature company that provides a full and very stable range of charting products for COM and .NET. I think customers feel comfortable knowing that they can invest in COM today and easily migrate to .NET when it makes sense to them.

What’s next for Software FX (especially Chart FX)?

For quite some time, we’ve been talking about .NET and how it represents a natural progression and complement for our leading charting solutions. Nevertheless, Chart FX for .NET is not the end of the line for Software FX.

On the contrary, our goal is to take advantage of the features built into Chart FX for .NET and integrate them with the rest of our product line. We believe this integration will lead to an unprecedented charting technology that will help developers integrate and deploy any chart, anywhere; a goal that has always epitomized our mission as a company.

For the last few months we have been working through the various technical aspects of bringing to market a COM and a Java version of Chart FX with similar features to Chart FX for .NET. The result will be a charting solution that can support even the most intricate architectures and work seamlessly across heterogeneous systems.

For example, developers are constantly stuck with the problem that they must deploy the .NET framework (Approx. 15MB) to client systems before a .NET component can be downloaded, installed and accessed on the browser. With Chart FX Internet 6.0 COM, developers will still be able to use a .NET server to produce a chart that will be displayed with an ActiveX or a .NET control depending on the resources available on the client. This obviously translates to added convenience and ease-of-use for developers plus easier integration with legacy systems available throughout the organization.

Also, because Chart FX for .NET and Chart FX Internet 6.0 COM use GDI+ capabilities, no visual degradation occurs when a chart is loaded and displayed on the browser, whether if it’s being displayed as an image, ActiveX or .NET component. This translates into a seamless operation across the different platforms Chart FX supports.

In the same way, no Java charting solution available today is capable of producing native Windows output in the form of ActiveX or .NET. With Chart FX for Java, developers will be free to exploit the power and reliability of Java-based servers while providing a gratifying and dynamic experience to the greatly dominated Windows desktop environment. That’s a combination no other vendor can promise or offer.

Our purpose in facilitating this integration is to better meet the needs of our customers and leverage the investments they have made in our company and our products.