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Infragistics adds ink-enabled toolset to NetAdvantage

Infragistics has equipped the latest version of its NetAdvantage presentation-layer toolset with features designed for developers building applications for Tablet PCs -- specifically, a set of tools for deploying ink-enabled Windows Forms applications through its Presentation Layer Framework.

Available for the first time today for download from the Windsor, N.J.-based software maker's Web site, NetAdvantage 2003 Vol. 3 includes developer tools for Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003, Microsoft .NET Framework and Microsoft COM. And it features new .NET UI, ASP.NET date chooser and ASP.NET calendar interface elements.

But the big news in this version is the inclusion of features that allow developers to deploy ink-enabled Windows Forms applications via the product's exclusive Presentation Layer Framework. "Ink" is a data type native to Microsoft's Tablet PC operating system. The Infragistics Presentation Layer Framework provides a large, common set of core logic, through shared assemblies, found across all Infragistics .NET Window Forms products. The NetAdvantage ink-enabling capability is utilized through the Presentation Layer Framework, but the Presentation Layer Framework can also be used as a foundation to build any custom Windows Forms control.

Although tablets have made inroads into vertical industries, the hardware has not yet been widely embraced, observers note. But Infragistics appears to be betting on an eventual widespread adoption of the Tablet PC. Infragistics CEO Dean Guida said he expects the tablet platform and ink-enabled applications to emerge first in specific vertical markets, such as health care, banking and service organizations.

"The Tablet PC is tremendously innovative because of inking, the system's natural pen-driven input mechanism," Guida said, adding that the capability in many circumstances is more natural and effective than keyboard input.

The advent of new and improved pen-input and digital-ink technologies is making the platform even more practical, Infragistics' Chief Technology Evangelist and Director of Development Brad McCabe told eADT. The current crop of pens respond to pressure, allowing the user to create thick and thin lines easily -- some even come with "erasers" situated at the opposite end of the stick. Digital ink in particular now offers what McCabe calls "very high fidelity." During a recent demonstration at a meeting of the Bay.NET user group in Palo Alto, Calif., McCabe zoomed in on a line of digital ink, magnifying the image 5,000 times. Even projected on a screen, the edge of the line, now three feet across, was smooth and jag free.

According to McCabe, digital ink is not just about handwriting recognition -- the ability of software to recognize handwritten symbols and convert them into text. "Ink is ink," he said, "and it has value in that form.

"Developers should keep in mind that tablets are not here to replace keyboard inputs, but to augment them," McCabe added. "Developing applications for tablets is about finding new ways to bring the productivity of the PC into the workplace. The Tablet PC is, for now at least, primarily a workplace tool. You don't see them all over the shelves at Best Buy."

Microsoft, which debuted the first of this generation of Tablet PCs a year ago and currently makes the only operating system for the platform, has nothing but praise for the capabilities of Infragistics' newest toolset. "Pen-based applications have tremendous potential to help people perform computing tasks more productively, efficiently and naturally," said Frank Gocinski, Tablet PC business development manager at Microsoft Corp., in a statement. "The latest edition of Infragistics NetAdvantage 2003 toolset will empower developers to create even more innovative ink-enabled applications that extend the powerful Tablet PC platform to fulfill new usage scenarios across a host of industries."

Infragistics specializes in presentation-layer component toolsets for both Microsoft and Java platforms. The company's NetAdvantage line is a series of components written for the Microsoft .NET, ASP.NET and COM environments. It bills NetAdvantage as an integrated toolset for creating flexible, advanced application interfaces for any Microsoft environment. The company also makes JSuite, a set of Java-based presentation layer components that includes AWT, JavaBeans and JFC components.

NetAdvantage 2003 Vol. 3 is available as a download (www.infragistics.com) for $495, according to company reps. Sold with a subscription that includes all updates, upgrades, Infragistics .NET source code and all new components added to NetAdvantage 2003 for one year, the price is $695. An Enterprise Edition that includes products, source code and guaranteed response priority support for one year, is $995. A boxed version of the product is slated to ship by mid-October.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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