LSI has done considerable work to maintain the functionality of SilverFast in Snow Leopard, and I do know they are working likewise for Lion
I think they're probably working overtime at the moment! It is my belief their efforts are focused on a major new release for this year, 7.0 or something, and they have given me good reason, but of course without officially admitting anything.
My concern is that those efforts may be solely on this and not on updating what might soon be a "legacy" catalog, and so if this new dot release is not ready in time for Lion's release, there may be no way to use current Silverfast on the new OS with any
scanners. In fairness it is not at all unreasonable for a smallish organisation to focus it's limited development resources on a major new release, it makes perfect sense and I would neither expect them to release a major new revision until it's ready, but because of the open issue over lack of Universal Binaries which has been running for 5 years now without resolution, this could come back to bite them and their customers. I guess we'll find out in due course.
but whether a Howtek version will be ready exactly when Lion appears, I agree, we don't know. There are many scanner models for which to whip the application into line.
I honestly wouldn't expect there to be a Howtek version available straight away, it's surely way
down the pecking order, their most common models would, and should be the priority. My concern is not that a Howtek version will be available so I can update to Lion straight away, but that those less common (but premium priced) models will be dropped altogether, and thus only the old PowerPC binary will be available, blocking future OS upgrade paths completely. A critical bug went unfixed in the Howtek version for some time because Lasersoft's Howtek broke and they couldn't lay their hands on a replacement, it has to be a niche segment of their catalogue, so I'm distinctly aware I'm hanging on by my fingertips anyway. I would really rather not be forced into finding a different scanner or scanning software, I like my scanner, and support issues aside, I personally have yet to see the equal to Silverfast in scanning capability.
I agree that in principle HCT targets should be at least as good if not better than LSI's IT8 (but I haven't tested this in practice, so can't say for sure). I think it would be eminently reasonable for them to have a look at the HCT target as a basis for their Auto profiling tool and I suggested this quite a long time ago. Of course the inconveniences to them are that (1) the HCT target is proprietary so they would need to do a deal with the owner, and (2) they would need to reprogram and test their algorithm and tweak it for each scanner model, so clearly a non-trivial undertaking. Here I'm speculating - I think reasonably - that they would need to be convinced it's really a whole lot better than what they're doing and be able to market it as such if they were to invest the resources needed to do it. I think it's an idea still worth keeping on the table, in the sense that if in fact X-Rite is vacating the field of scanner profiling software and all the owners of HCT targets wish to continue using them to create new profiles with emerging operating systems, the commercial attractiveness of such an option may be reasonable.
I think it would be a nice feather in LSI's cap to have that capability, but as you say, there are factors to consider, and I suspect they have other priorities at the moment