Why the new roadmap won’t impress anyone

Well, Embarcadero has started to release some previews for Delphi 2011 XE, and what’s been released so far doesn’t show any obvious indications that the cross-platform features everyone was expecting will actually be present in this release.  Some people on the forums immediately interpreted absence of evidence as evidence of absence and started a big to-do about it.

The interesting thing here is that people from Embarcadero are responding immediately.  And it’s interesting what they’re saying, and what can be read between the lines.  We won’t know anything for certain until an official announcement is made, but it’s sure starting to sound like the cross-platform features got delayed for whatever reason and are still in active development but won’t be in Delphi XE.
Embarcadero’s Allen Bauer and John Kaster have both announced that they’re working on a new, updated roadmap that will be posted within a few days.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I already think it won’t really reassure or impress anybody.I can’t speak for everyone, or really for anyone but myself, but I tend to
be pretty good at reading people and particularly at reading groups of people, and from what I’ve seen, this new roadmap will strike most people in the Delphi community as rather underwhelming no matter what’s in it, not because of what it contains, but because of what it lacks.

The roadmap that would get people excited–the one that Embarcadero is never going to release, of course, because of the everpresent, nebulous, but all-important “business reasons” that always get in the way of doing stuff like this right–would replace the weasel words in slide 3 of the current roadmap.

If they were to lose the following:

This information describes Embarcadero’s general product
direction at this time, and should not be relied on in making a
licensing decision.  The future development, release and timing
of features and functionality remains at our sole discretion and
may be changed at any time without notice.

…and replace it with something like this:

This information describes Embarcadero’s commitment to the
Delphi community, the features that we *will* produce for the
next releases, and a concrete schedule that we are 100%
committed to meeting or surpassing.

…can you imagine the reaction?!?  It would finally give us something we’ve been sorely missing for the better part of a decade: a company behind Delphi that we know “gets it.”

Remember what Windows development used to be like before Delphi?  Delphi was the great innovator in programming, back in the day.  It was light-years ahead of VB, or any flavor of C++ for that matter.  Then Delphi 8 came along, and the message it gave everyone is, “.NET is the future and we can’t get it right.”  From that point on, Borland was dropping the ball on every occasion possible.  You’d think Murphy himself was running the company, and overseeing the development tools division personally.

Quality plummeted.  Delphi 8 was a joke, and 2005 and 2006 were scarcely better.  D2007 was tolerable, but that’s the best I can say about it.  We’re still waiting on 64-bit, which Dephi The Great Innovator, had it existed at the time, would have had ready and working no later than 2004.  And Borland managed to pretty much eradicate the community’s trust.  Then they sold off the dev tools division to Embarcadero, and we thought, “finally!  Delphi in the hands of a company that really ‘gets it’ again.”  But so far that’s only been half true.

The quality improvements have been immense.  For the first time since D7, Delphi 2009 gave us a solid IDE that was not downright painful to use.  (As long as you didn’t try to use Code Completion, or hit F1.)  Generics, anonymous methods, Unicode and extended RTTI have been major steps forward, but Delphi The Great Innovator is gone.

Borland fumbled and gave Microsoft 4 free years to work on Visual Studio and the .NET languages, and C# has gone from an utter joke, (“let’s take people from the Delphi team and have them rewrite Delphi in Java syntax, and leave out half the stuff that makes Delphi worth working with because we can’t implement them without stepping in Borland’s patents, but that’s all right because it’s Backed By Microsoft™ so everyone will use it anyway,”) to an industry-leading language.  Borland let that happen, Embarcadero inherited their mess, and we’re playing catch-up now.  And until we have working compilers for Windows, OSX and Linux, in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors, a helpfile that’s actually complete and doesn’t suck, *Insight that actually works and doesn’t suck, and some form of LINQ and some form of concurrency support at the language level, (that actually work and don’t suck,) we’re going to be stuck playing catch-up.

While the team under Embarcadero has made excellent progress in improving the quality of Delphi, they’ve done little to nothing to rebuild trust in the Delphi community.  The recent dual PR nightmares from firing Nick Hodges and the huge mess that the forum mods made of the whole Simon Kissel thing, it creates the sense that nothing has changed, that there’s still a bunch of PHBs undermining the team’s efforts.  And that brings me back to the roadmaps.  Apparently Borland had to talk in this sort of weasel words and say how they couldn’t really say anything until the product was ready to ship.  Had something to do with being a publicly traded company.  Well, that’s one anchor that Embarcadero doesn’t have around their necks.

Embarcadero is not a publicly traded corporation.  They aren’t beholden to a bunch of morons on Wall Street who only care about stock price and don’t know a thing about producing good development tools.  They aren’t bound by a lot of the laws and financial regulations that govern the behavior of publicly traded companies.  So why does it feel so much like they’re still doing business by Borland’s rules?

If Embarcadero wants to regain the trust of the Delphi community, it has to give us something to base that trust on.  A firm schedule with a  firm commitment behind it would do absolute wonders, and IMO the commitment would be even more important than the actual content of the roadmap.  Even if it said “x64 will be available in 2016,” if there was a firm date and we didn’t have to wonder if it would be here in 2012 or 2035 or ever, that would take a huge load off a lot of people’s shoulders.  (Including, I’d imagine, the shoulders of a lot of the engineers on the Delphi team!)

But of course, Embarcadero isn’t going to do that, are they?  They’re going to release another roadmap that says, right in the document itself, that we can’t actually trust what it says.  And then they’re going to wonder why the developers don’t seem to trust what they say…


  1. JF B. says:

    I think for the next project i’ll stay with freepascal/Lazarus and let Delphi behind.

    Why wait when opensource projects do the job well (64 bits and Linux) ?