Thoughts on Embarcadero’s business model

Like a lot of you, I got my SA subscriber’s notification that XE3 has been released last night.  (I decided not to cancel after Embarcadero reconsidered the changes to their licensing policy.)  I’ve been too busy today trying to track down a tricky bug in a personal project I’m working on to download and install it, so I don’t have too much to say about the product yet.  I’ll post a first-look review sometime soon.  But that’s not what I wanted to say here right now.  Since my previous article, I’ve been talking a fair amount with David Intersimone, and it’s been quite the enlightening experience.  A lot of it was private, of course, but there’s one thing that I’d like to talk about.

Towards the end of his latest post, Jolyon Smith points out several changes in policy and business practices at Embarcadero over the last few years, things that each tend to make customers uncomfortable, and taken together can be interpreted as a pretty ugly picture of a company in trouble, one flailing around for some way to bring in enough money to make ends meet and stay profitable.  And I know that there are a lot of people in the community who think that and who have expressed the opinion that that’s exactly what’s going on, whether they actually know anything about it or not.

But when I talked with David I about some of these things, he vehemently denied that the company was in trouble.  He pointed out that Delphi has been growing strongly every year since Embarcadero took over, and that based on the data they had available, they expect it to continue to grow.  He emphasized that the point of the proposed licensing changes was to clarify what the intended use of each edition was, and that the new revenue that they hoped to gain from the changes was intended to go towards further investment in research and development and other resources to continue to improve their products.

And that’s understandable.  Where I work, we have company-wide meetings every few months where they discuss all sorts of things, including finances.  And while the numbers are proprietary and confidential, of course, no one should be surprised to learn that development eats up a pretty big piece of the pie; it takes a lot of money to pay the salaries of a bunch of guys like me!  I wouldn’t expect it to be too different at Embarcadero.

But still, in light of the community’s reaction, I remember thinking, well, I don’t have that internal information available, but someone in a decision-making role is clearly very confident about it.  To make a bet like this, either the company is being run by businessmen who are both blind and suicidal… or they really do have some darn good data to support it.

But they eventually ended up backing down on the changes, as we now know.  And I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a third possibility: they were working on good data… to a certain point.  What if Jolyon’s dichotomy, “incompetence or malice?”, is a false one?  Allow me to present a third possibility: an echo chamber of sorts.

One of the common complaints I’ve heard, and made myself a few times, is that the Delphi developer population is aging.  I’m one of the youngest guys I know in the community, and I’m 30.  The StackOverflow Top Users page for the Delphi tag has links to several profiles, most of which have ages.  Have a look. There are a few people in their 20s and 30s, but not many.  Most Delphi developers are significantly older than me, in their 40s or later.  I first started working with Delphi when I was 15, and I don’t see anyone like that younger me around anymore, still in their formative years, discovering the wonders of the VCL and Object Pascal and how its well-thought-out design makes things “just work.”

And that got me thinking.  If Embarcadero is marketing to the type of people who historically have been good Delphi customers, then it’s not surprising that the techniques and practices that they’ve found to be effective are those which appeal, by their familiarity, to an older audience.  And as long as they keep the focus on that, they’ll be led around in the same circle, and it will continue to be successful… right up until those developers start retiring.  And then we’re in trouble.

But to the younger developers, the ones Embarcadero really needs to be courting to keep the product alive and ensure a healthy future for the community, the current pricing and marketing system looks antiquated, to put it bluntly.  What my generation, and the rising generation even more so, is used to when it comes to digital distribution is stuff like iTunes, Steam, and the Android store.  To this younger crowd specifically, the low-price-high-volume model is *the* proven success story.  Heck, Steam is famous for its insanely successful sales: they slash prices on popular games, and not only do sales go up, but so does total revenue! Consistently!  They make so many more sales that they make up in volume more than they lose in per-unit profit.

Now obviously, Delphi isn’t a game.  But I do think that, as part of a well-designed marketing campaign targeted at younger developers, cutting the price instead of raising it would do a world of good.  And even if it did end up losing some revenue instead of gaining it, it would bring in more users, which is far more important in the long run.  (And if the company literally can’t afford a short-term revenue hit as an investment in the long-term viability of their major product, then IMO they’re in exactly the type of severe financial trouble that David I was so emphatically denying was the case.)

And I had one other thought.  What Embarcadero needs isn’t money; it’s work.  Money, of course, is a good way to obtain work: you use it to hire people to work for you.  And that’s a very effective system, in a lot of cases.  It works well where I work, for example.  But our products are enterprise-class, and our contracts involve major media companies with millions or even tens of millions of dollars to spend on our software.  If Embarcadero tried to sell that way, they’d price themselves out of the market, because they’re in a very different market.

There is a different way, though, and it’s uniquely well-suited to programs like Delphi: programs for programmers.  The second well-proven method of obtaining work is to give someone a good incentive to contribute work without monetary compensation.  And in the development world, that means access.

I think that this is something that Embarcadero really undervalues.  A product like Delphi, one that comes with full sources for all the standard libraries, ought to be raking in the contributions.  And it sort of is, but they don’t seem to be taking advantage of it.  Instead of a top-notch issue tracker, we’ve got QC, which everyone agrees is horrible.  And when bugs get filed there, they end up in what feels like a black hole; there’s no response!  More than once I’ve gone into QC and found that something I filed months ago has been status-changed to “Needs Feedback”, and I never knew about it.  That’s kind of ridiculous when they have my email address on file!  (Especially considering that Embarcadero, before acquiring Delphi, used to be known as a database tools company.  Getting stuff like that right ought to be *simple*!)

And I think they could improve in more areas than just the standard libraries.  It’s been widely reported that, due to his technical wizardry, Andreas Hausladen has “special access” of some sort.  While the details of this access have never really been elaborated on that I’m aware of, it’s reasonable to suppose that Andreas has at least some access to the source code of the IDE.  And I think that’s a very good idea, and something that should be a bit more widespread.

I mean, just imagine if Eric Grange had “special access” to the compiler (and they could really use a guy of his caliber with Barry Kelly gone, especially if there’s any truth to the rumors that the upcoming “next-generation” version of the Delphi compiler will be written in Delphi), or if Primoz Gabrijelcic had a special working relationship with the RTL team!  Or how many times have you run across some nasty recurring bug in the IDE and thought “if only I had the sources, I could debug this and fix it”?  I know I have, and I know if I did find a fix, I’d send it back upstream to Scotts Valley so it would hopefully end up in the next patch and stop annoying other developers.  (And I’d also send it to Andreas, so it could end up in the users’ hands before Embarcadero got around to issuing the next patch!)

I definitely think that by expanding and improving access to the product, and by improving the feedback process on bug reports and feature requests–particularly the ones that come with actual code–Embarcadero would be able to get more done with less cost to themselves, which would enable them to work to grow the community and get Delphi into the hands of more new developers.  And that would benefit everyone.

David I wrote to me that:

We spend a lot of time looking at the data, the sales, the competition, the economy, the market and more.  I spend a large amount of my time analyzing customer data, registrations, and models of offers/price/promotions/events as it relates to purchases to make sure we are not missing some trends or specific issues.

Well, that’s my analysis of current trends, from an outsider’s perspective, both company-wise and demographically.  He was working at Borland literally before I was old enough to know what a computer was, and there’s a lot of knowledge and wisdom represented in that many years of experience.  Nick Hodges calls him “smart beyond reason”, and I can’t say I disagree.

But that experience also brings a certain amount of baggage with it.  The times, as Dylan put it, they are a-changin, and Delphi needs to change too, to adapt to the times.  Embarcadero would do well to make long-term growth, and getting Delphi into the hands of younger developers, their top priority going forward.  Actively invest in rebuilding the community infrastructure that’s been slowly decaying ever since D8, and focus more strongly on working with the community–particularly the really smart ones–as partners who can actively help improve the product itself.

As always, opinions and feedback are welcome.  I only ask, please keep the negativity down.  Above all, I’d like to solicit constructive ideas on how to strengthen the community, improve Delphi as a language and a development system, and get more people using it.  Does anyone have any suggestions to make?

52 Comments

  1. Fábio Gomes says:

    Nice post, nailed it.

    Talking about QC. I’m tracking several QC entries, some that are opened since Delphi 3 and Delphi 6 and still aren’t fixed, maybe because everybody just gives up and patches the source code (as I have done several times) and they just never fix them.

    Some examples that I’m tracking:

    QC# 103625 show stopper for us, had to patch it.
    QC# 2334 fixed after 8 years and some prayer.
    QC# 73852 work around it, or patch it, your call.

    Several times I lost several hours debugging just to figure out that in the end it was a Delphi bug. Guess how happy I was to figure out that some of the bugs are there for 8 ou more years. I can’t even imagine how many programming hours were wasted by people around the globe because of some of these Delphi bugs. And when a new version comes out, what do you get? More bugs!

  2. Larry Hengen says:

    I don’t think EMBT “ended up backing down on the changes” as you and several other bloggers have represented. They are still restricting developers form using DBExpress to access databases other than on the local machine with Delphi Pro. That AFAIK that still constitutes a license change and still makes Delphi XE3 Pro crippled when compared to XE2 Pro (unless you violate the EULA).

    I agree that EMBT is missing the boat on pricing, and it really makes me wonder what DavidI is doing analyzing sales data, since that should be done by marketing. Turbo Pascal was increadibly successful because it had a price tag of $50. Delphi has gotten progressively more expensive over time, especially when compared to the competition while offering increasingly less value. I blogged about this some time ago (http://www.tpersistent.com/?p=180).

    I also agree that EMBT is missing the boat on open source. Developers are customers with a unique ability to improve on the product, and would happily do so for free. I also blogged about this as well (http://www.tpersistent.com/?p=244). I would happily devote some time to fix some of my bug reports that are over a year old (mor ethan 1 release), if EMBT would make the source available.

    If EMBT wants to increase the market share with new developers they have to make Delphi better than Visual Studio at the same price point and provide at least one advantage (like a complete X platform framework with native performance and minimal overhead). I think FMX is on the right track but is just too immmature and the way it’s been marketed, and the lack of the updates as promised, has doen EMBT and Delphi a lot of damage. This EULA fiasco is just another installment. EMBT needs some real leadership IMHO. They need to show their committment to existing customers (not try to milk them), and develop a strategy to attract new ones.

    • Eric says:

      DBExpress was already restricted IIRC, though it’s not much of an issue, as it’s much poorer than any of the third party offerings (bugs with Oracle and SQL Server, no timely updates, just got SQLite support…). If they want to nerf their own components, it’s their problem.

      I agree with everything else, and might add that for open-source, they more than dropped the ball, even for libraries and components they were donated or purchased, they did not maintain them, ofttimes not even bothering to integrate fixes provided by the original author, while having licenses agreement that required the pulling of the sources (some image libraries come to mind).

  3. I think that EMBT are doing many things right – each version of Delphi since D8 has been better and more stable than the last, which is very pleasing to see. I’ve been playing around with XE3 and thus far made 3 videos on some of the new features, I think it’s a solid release – yet still a bit disappointing. I had hoped that I’d be able to build Android apps with this release, not only is this not yet possible, but iOS support has been dropped and will be re-released as MobileStudio.

    Attempts are being made to leverage the community (I’m now an Embarcadero MVP), but clearly it’s not enough. It would be nice to start seeing some more open source / community built stuff being integrated into Delphi, and more of Delphi being integrated into the community.

    For large successful companies, a Delphi license is a small expense compared to a salary – however for a hobbiest developer it’s rather prohibitive. I don’t know what the solution is there – but dropping the price to $50 is not the answer.

    Just some thoughts.

    • David I says:

      A few additional thoughts:

      1) reaching out to young developers – in Russia and Brazil, for example, Delphi is used in lower schools reaching very young developers. In the UK, Delphi is on the recommended list for schools. In certain countries with larger young populations, Delphi is widely used including in China. In adding Mac and Mobile to Delphi/C++Builder we will also appeal to younger developers who want to take advantage of these new platforms and devices. We also created the 9 lesson “Getting Started with Windows and Mac Development course to teach new generations of developers how to use one set of source code to build applications for Windows and Mac. When we have mobile studio you will be able to take your same FM2 code to Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.

      2) Open Source community projects included in our products – we include Project Indy in our products and also built DataSnap on top of some of the Project Indy components.

      3) Baggage – not sure what the context is here. We have continued to evolve Delphi and now have the new FM2 business application framework – neither of which have any “baggage” that I can find. I do know that some people carry a bit of baggage from some of the past(s) that we have lived through. I, for one, keep looking forward every day to the more and more types of applications and software architectures I can employ using Delphi and C++Builder.

      4) Enthusiasts – one of the great things about developer tools is that you hear from your customers every minute and every day. I love that developers are so passionate about languages, tools, solutions and more. You help push is forward, even beyond what the teams of Embarcadero engineers are looking at. Don’t ever stop.

      5) The aging of Delphi and C++ Developers – we were young once and stay young and heart using all the latest capabilities of Delphi and C++Builder, FireMonkey and platforms. it’s not that we are older than the youngsters today – we just started sooner and have grown with the platforms, languages, compilers, and architectures. We are young at heart and mostly in mind. If the average age of a Delphi devleoper is over thirty – that is the new teenager. We are not old – we are wise, seasoned and experienced and looking for new challenges and fun.

      Finally – we are not perfect, nor do we claim to be. We are working computer scientists and software engineers. We are always looking and listening for ways we can improve everything that we do. We make mistakes, and learn from them (who doesn’t out there). I can tell you though – the great people at Embarcadero who work on our products are real human beings, driven to create great tools and get you all ready for the future. We do all this and more every day (24×7) around the world. We will keep improving, keep listening and move forward. Come along with it – the ride is only half the fun – programming and having a rich outside life is also as important. I hope we will all continue to treat each other with respect and kindness. I try to do this every day and in every way.

      Thanks everyone for your continued caring about what we do.

      Programming is life (but not the only thing in life). Keep doing it every day!

      • Francis Ruiz says:

        Good post David,

        Will we need to wait to september for the mobile release or it will be sooner?

      • Guest says:

        How many Delphi users in China actually pay ??

      • Paul Green says:

        Great post David.

        Why not post this on your blog?
        Don’t leave such a thing tucked away in the comments of somebody elses.

        Michael Swindell did exactly the same thing about WinRt on Tim Andersons blog.
        http://www.itwriting.com/blog/6347-third-party-compilers-locked-out-of-windows-runtime-development.html#comment-1393711

        I just don’t understand why there is so little information coming out of EMBT on its blogs etc. You have to find it in comments
        of third party blogs.

        I realise there is stuff you’re not allowed to comment on, but if you can post stuff here, surely you can post it on SFTF?
        It really would go a long way to re-establishing links with part of the community that feels EMBT is just not interested in them.

        Nearly everybody wants Delphi to thrive, communication is the first step to getting most things done. Please help.

      • 1) My biggest concern related to Delphi is that there’s no place where you can get real and fast community help, if it weren’t for stackoverflow.com, it would have been quite difficult.

        I’ve started(as Mason) at age 15(currently 24) to “play” with Delphi(D7), didn’t had Internet connection, had to walk to an Internet cafe in order to get components on floppy disk(yeah! remember those?), hover, today, there’s free Internet almost everywhere in almost every country.
        Young developers really need a place to exchange information without being booted from SO for asking “off-topic” questions and so… the borland/codegear/embarcadero forums were and still are very bad(constructive criticism).
        Maybe following the SO model but with some changes could prove as a great resource tool for young/old/teachers developers or soon-to-be, and, maybe, every week, for 1h, people actually working on delphi could answer some questions?

        4) as others mentioned, QC’s are not really taken into considerations(or postponed for whatever reason for close to a decade???), maybe some “reminders” would help, I understand(to some degree) that it’s not easy trying to hit the deadline and in the same time fix other stuff, but someone has to do it.

        My mentor told me that he met you at conferences and has only good things to say about you David I, all I can say is:
        PLEASE push it hard up the chain, they don’t always make the right decisions and maybe remind them that EMB is targeting developers not we want value in return for our money, shiny things lose their shine quite fast(cough FM)…

        • is targeting developers not “consumers” we***

        • Nick Hodges says:

          “1) My biggest concern related to Delphi is that there’s no place where you can get real and fast community help, if it weren’t for stackoverflow.com, it would have been quite difficult.”

          Isn’t that kind of contradictory? Sort of like saying “You can’t get real and fast help except for the places where you can get real and fast help.” 😉

          You can get fast help on StackOverflow and on the EMBT newsgroups.

          • John Jacobson says:

            “newsgroups”

            Activity there has definitely dropped off, in favor of StackOverflow and the like. I don’t think newer programmers would instinctively think to look in any newsgroups for a community of helpers. In fact, back when the newsgroups were more active I was amazed at how many of my fellow Delphi programmers were not even aware of the Delphi newsgroups in the first place.

            Even on SO, the activity feels light to me. I definitely get the feeling that the Delphi community has gotten a lot smaller. The real question is how small can it get before it is too thin to effectively work?

            I don’t do Delphi anymore, except as a hobby. It is not that I actively avoided or even ignored Delphi the last time I looked for a job, it is just that NOTHING led to a single interview. The few nibbles were for positions that paid so low I wouldn’t have been solvent. With a labor market like this, it seems likely that the pool of people actively doing Delphi enough to be able to help and welcome others must surely be getting smaller at this point. This is scary, because it means that the biggest advantage of Delphi, the community, is one thing that seems to be falling below critical mass.

            And truth be told, unless the mobile development possibilities revive the community, I can’t see how Delphi avoids becoming like PowerBuilder, still “alive” but largely irrelevant to the labor market.

            This release of Delphi is a dud unless you are a rich newbie. But if the mobile dev tool chain is what David I is suggesting, then I will probably pick that up when it comes out, if I can afford it as a hobby. That is the promised land. One native code for all desks and mobile devices. And DI said here in this thread that FM2 would do that.

            I guess the trick is for the Delphi community not to get too depressed in the meantime by this non-event of Delphi XE3.

            • Jan Doggen says:

              “newsgroups – Activity there has definitely dropped off, in favor of StackOverflow and the like”

              Yes, newsgroups are getting old-fashioned, despite their technical merits. A bit like RSS, a great tool, but who uses it? Too bad.

              One thing worth mentioning: I just noticed that EMBT fixed the search functionality (after many months), so the forums are now usable again.

          • @Nick maybe I wasn’t clear enough, when I’ve started with Delphi, I didn’t knew how to use the IDE, options and such, had to learn everything the hard and long way(didn’t had Internet), most likely you and others followed the same path.

            Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just ask somewhere questions like:
            “How can I reduce the size of the exe”
            “How can I create a console application”
            “How can I read a line from console”
            “How can I write a line of text in a file”
            etc.
            All of the above seem trivial, but for someone just starting, it may be harder to get started, out of the above questions, how many would be instantly closed on SO? with a bit of luck, someone would have written a comment explaining “how to”, but more often than not, this simple questions get closed.
            There are many places out there(newsgroups, forums, SO, etc.), but for some, it isn’t so “trivial”, I’d(and others) expect that after I buy a product like Delphi, I can read FAQ’s and get some kind of help on the website on which I’ve made the purchase.

            Oh, and EMBT forums sometimes “don’t work”, which makes it kinda’ hard to get help… maybe links to external resources on the main page would help a lot?

            You don’t have to agree with me, that’s just my 2 cents.

        • Regan says:

          I have to disagree with point 1. In Australia, the ADUG (Australian Delphi User Group) is always my first port of call. I am almost guaranteed a response within a few hours. It’s a fantastic, vibrant, eclectic mix of delphi users that allows me to code, knowing that I have this pool of knowledge to call on whenever I need it.

      • Carlos Tré says:

        “in Russia and Brazil, for example, Delphi is used in lower schools reaching very young developers”

        Obviously I can’t say for Russia, but Brazil? How come almost every young programmer I come by has never even heard about Delphi? How come just about everyone else that posts about Delphi in Brazil seems to agree with me? Once upon a time Delphi was reliable and affordable, I just walked into a software shop in mall, paid circa US$ 500, and left with a copy of Delphi 5 Professional, that could be easily reinstalled no matter how many times Windows crashed. The upgrade to XE was a real nightmare, 23 days being tossed around by a salesperson that didn’t even pretended to be interested in closing the deal, and having literally nowhere else to go – millions of lines of source code, many third party libraries worth a few thousand dollars, ten years or so before retirement, all these made it unfeasible to switch to another language / IDE.

        But, please, don’t take my word for it, please search the Embarcadero forum for threads about Delphi in Brazil and see for yourself how we see the way things are going for Delphi down here.

      • Felipe says:

        Hi David, i really like you participaiting. about the youngest future developers, without a “express like” copy of delphi is hardly factible they keep the spirit outside the school enviroment, why this starter edition has a cost, it is ridiculous.
        About open source i agree with you about this indy components, incluiding this components does mean you support tha team, at least this isn’t public, how about a program for open source components that are very good and delphi doesn’t come with that functionality and embarcadero does not have to pay for this, you just support the library and incorpored them into the final product, for example i’m thinking about the turbopower components, my point is, i buy a very nice development tool wich is not complete, then i have to buy tms componts pack, plus raize components, plus fastreport pro, plus devexpress bars (by the way, embarcadero ribbon solution is incomplete and you nerver talk about it again, devexpress bars is so cool) now, how much money did i spend for a POWERFULL tool enviroment?, you got point. Firemonkey is i great way to improve delphi toolset, but is not the only way.
        resuming, better price, more control about third party components (free, open source and commercial), like the appstore, but it should be a componentstore for delphi.
        finally lazarus is comming strong and remobjects is trying to compete strongly, US$399 if you own a delphi copy, what do you think this means, since delphi and oxygene are incopatibles, and they also have data abstract which is a strong datasnap killer. Let me know what do you think, this are very important times for the future of delphi and of course embarcadero developer tools.

        Greetings

      • Joseph says:

        So while “we are not perfect”, you don’t feel Embarcadero needs to address any of the issues the poster raised? I’m reminded of when George W. Bush was asked about his worst mistake shortly before leaving office, he replied that he’d made mistakes but couldn’t think of any off the top of his head and then began picking lint off of his sweater until reporters asked a new question. 🙁

        1. Delphi was emphasized because once upon a time it was much cheaper than MS’ products. Nowadays the same schools you cite – Russia specifically – are crafting a plan to switch to the Linux operating system. You can be sure Delphi will no longer be a tool of choice once that plan is complete. In nations across the first world, Delphi/Pascal is no longer part of colleges’ curriculums. I’ve been in the IT department of certain billion-dollar U.S. companies and brought up Delphi and NO ONE EVEN KNEW WHAT IT WAS.

        Regarding mobile – the product is always a day late and a dollar short. iOS support is dropped, Android isn’t here yet – by the time these things arrive, perhaps Windows Phone 8, the new Blackberry OS (don’t bet on it), a revived WebOS or something new will be the hot market. Meanwhile, people interested in Android development can download tools for free and begin developing today, and can resign themselves to doing things the Apple way and also begin development now. I won’t even get into the fact that FreePascal can give us some of these things now with unpaid volunteer developers. Delphi for mobile might be useful when it arrives for people already using Delphi who want to get into mobile development but are in no rush to do so, but I don’t know what it offers those who don’t use Delphi now when they could just use the existing tools for much less money. This starts to remind me of Delphi for .Net. As we now know, most of those who were interested in .Net simply went and used the official tools and language (for less money).

        2. Taking from open source is not the same as contributing to open source. Let’s not forget the Interbase episode and pretend as if your company has a good reputation in the open source community.

        3. “I, for one, keep looking forward every day to the more and more types of applications and software architectures I can employ using Delphi and C++Builder.” Sticking with political examples, this is like in American political debates when the candidates are asked what their favorite book is and going down the line everyone answers “the Bible”. To make Delphi better, you have to be able to focus on its flaws, not be blinded by its strengths.

        5. No, I admit at 40 we’re often people set in our ways, and many of us simply stopped learning new technologies and are afraid of losing our expert status since we’ve probably been programming in Pascal for 25+ years. No one wants our Delphi skills anymore (107 jobs across US listed on Dice that include “Delphi”, and only 27 when you require it to be in the title; “COBOL” tuned up over 500) and unless our resume includes at least one of Ruby, Python, Haskell, Google Go we’re automatically stamped as intellectually incurious. Those who are better at adapting switched to something more current several years ago. Tying in to number 4, the only one’s left are the fanatics, the afraid, the uber-stubborn and those with Stockholm Syndrome who can’t admit to themselves the pickle they’re in. We’re the RIM Blackberry users of the programming world. 🙁

  4. Rob McDonell says:

    The Delphi community is an incredibly passionate and enthusiastic group. I think that’s why there’s such a level of heat in the discussions from time to time. We all really want Delphi to succeed, but we’ve been disappointed so many times in recent years with expectations unmet and decisions by Embarcadero that seem counterproductive.

    I agree that Embarcadero is not making the most of the community. So many developers *want* Delphi to grow, and are willing to do what they can to help achieve that. But they can’t do much if they are kept in the dark, or if the contributions that are made (like bug reports) appear to be ignored.

    I work for a volunteer organization, and I can attest that managing volunteers is a lot harder than managing employees. A volunteer has to be dedicated to the cause, and feel that their efforts make a meaningful contribution to it. They have to see that they are part of the team, not just a resource to be milked. And some kudos in return goes a long way as well.

    Embarcadero would do well to learn how to really support and encourage the efforts that so many in the Delphi community would be willing to contribute.

  5. C Johnson says:

    the delphi guys aren’t likely to look into open sourcing any time soon. The whole firebird/interbase thing is proof of that.

    I have always agreed the price is FAR to high. My copy of TP4.0 cost me 100$ canadian (about 65$ us at the time) – and it was a HUGE departure from TP3.0. BP7 which was the first cross platform compiler they developed was also cheap, about 200$ AND it came with awesome, well written manuals. Delphi 1 cost me 300$, also with manuals. D2 cost me 200$, again with manuals. After that…. well, the manuals started to vanish in quantity AND quality, and the price started to climb.

    Yes, if Embarcadero wants to move units, higher prices AND pointless usage taxes are the wrong way to go. I’m *STILL* considering not renewing SA when the time comes.

    Based on past history, it can hardly be a surprise that everyone screamed and attacked. Certainly nothing else has gotten the company’s attention over the years.

  6. Colin Johnsun says:

    You absolutely nailed it.

    I can’t agree more with your sentiments. Look at Microsoft, they’ve open-sourced their key ASP.NET frameworks such as ASP.NET MVC, Web API, WebForms and WebPages (http://aspnet.codeplex.com). This allows their community developers to download the code and allow them to contribute back to these project. Microsoft even gives guidelines on how developers can contribute back to these projects (http://aspnetwebstack.codeplex.com/wikipage?title=Contributing).

    I don’t know if EMBT is able to do something similar, but I’m sure that they would get more “buy-in” from the developer community because one of the benefits to EMBT is that developers will more likely stay with Delphi as they know have contributed to its growth. For EMBT it would also mean that they can spend more of their resources in developing better features or fix harder bugs and less on trying to fix bugs that have already been handled by the developer community.

    In the end, I hope EMBT will take your ideas into greater consideration because I also think they are too buried in the past to see how they can improve Delphi for the future.

  7. Wouter says:

    Whoa, I thought at 36 years I was the youngster of the community 🙂

    Why Delphi is not actively pushed for free in universities, schools and to students is beyond me. Like this, in 10 years we’ll still be the “young ones”, and half of the current community will be demented, retired or dead.

  8. Luigi D. Sandon says:

    Delphi is not a game, and even some games may fail spectacularly. Did you ever heard about “Microsoft Flight”? It was released last February. It was an attempt to “reboot” the “Microsoft Flight Simulator” product using the “freemium” model trying to get more customers. It was also sold on Steam. It was a total failure, and the product was killed last month. Why? Because it was targeted at the wrong people. Like Delphi, Flight Simulator is used by a dedicated group of customers – many of them over 40 – that were not interested in that product (that had less features then FSX) and don’t care much about the price of add-ons as long as they are top-quality. While the new target customers complained if a plane costed $15 – FSX users may pay $40 without problems. “Flight” got the same flak Embarcadero got with the new EULA, and “Flight” supporter said MS knows what it was doing, and they “had the numbers”. It looked those numbers were wrong, because the product and development team was shutdown just after five months. And of course then there were people saying that the fault wasn’t the delivery of product without a real market, but it was people complaining about it that killed the product. It looks that reality distortion is the new marketing technique companies use to hide their mistake. They never make one, it’s customers that refuse to understand how a product is good.
    The bottom line: just chasing “more users” lowering the access price may lead you to deliver a product noone wants. A company needs to create a sustainable business, and you can build it even with less users, as long as they are happy to pay your prices. I would pay *more* for Delphi as long as the price/features and price/quality ratios are good enough. The EULA change would have raised the price/feature ratio in a silly way, as if suddendly MS forbids the use of Windows Home Edition for any professional task.
    Apple sells only high-priced products, but its customers are happy to pay them because they perceive a value in them. What Embarcadero needs are products that have a real perceived value at a given price. Developers – like flight simmers – are not stupid, and you can’t deceive them with some marketing. They can tell apart good products and those who are not. They bet their job, their business and a good part of their lives on the tools they use. They will choose wisely.

  9. pietro says:

    Apart from Delphi, I am also a user of a music software.

    It also has a fiercely fanatical user community.

    And flareups just like this one happen there, too.

  10. Kryvich says:

    No news here. Same suggestions and talks are over and over again for years. But nothing changes in the State of Denmark.

  11. Michael Thuma says:

    I have trust in young people in general, young people are a lot more clever than we think they would be. They are a lot less biased. Experience can lead you into a tunnel – this is why you should always be master in one technology and a beginner in a new one, assuming you decide to stay programmer/developer – architects and designer should also do.

    Delphi is suffering little from one phenomenon other technologies suffered in the past too. The developers/customers have been using the product a lot longer than maybe the young developers at the vendor’s site. A similar situation you are facing when joining a support department/team … Other companies solved this, by simply creating something new and totally different – this lead to new customers … but not into a direction of on-boarding the existing users.

    In the end, companies don’t fail because of the product. This is assumed by the customers. They fail because they don’t change. EMB changes. During the birth and while growing up there a company does experience a certain kind of pain, organic fever. Employee’s quit, new arrive …. that’s just normal.

    Just my opinion. EMB is still keeping alive the VCL as well as creating the new Firemonkey world.

    What you fairly get outside the Delphi world is aiming at on-boarding domain experts from other professions and give them the opportunity to develop. In the past the interface for this approach had been an easy language and a nice comfortable ASCII based ‘IDE’ at the times of Turbo Pascal and today this challenge is a bigger one. For me Boyan Mitov’s approach has always been ground breaking and it still is.

    Honestly XE3 does integrate such elements/ideas already, maybe the new bindings … today the meta-data is driving the structures but the point in time will come and meta data defined at the more ‘functional’ level of an application will provide the common flows … the first signs arrived last years (BMPS designer and message mapping to GUIs still very data driven, data driven apps… does not fit perfect in every situation). The moment the world moves forward towards more innovation again, the element of quickly being in the position to combine domain expertise with a development opportunity is a solid compromise. What is seen as crazy today can become ground breaking tomorrow.

    • Mason Wheeler says:

      Wow! That… was entirely coherent and made perfect sense. Who are you and what have you done with Michael Thuma? 😉

      (Seriously, though, thanks for the feedback. It’s greatly appreciated.)

    • Torbins says:

      Probably you will be interested to look at http://www.hiasm.com It totally eliminates the need to type code by hand. Everything is done with visual designer.

      • pietro says:

        “A line of code is worth a thousand pictures” – Anders Hejlsberg.

        There have been so many program creators like this one.

      • Eric says:

        The screenshots however looks a bit like a cross-over between a spaghetti plate and a PCB…

        • Torbins says:

          @pietro, @Eric: I agree that any complex program, written in HiASM will be a mess. But this is necessary evil. At least, if you want to give the ability to write programs to people, who don’t know any programming languages and don’t have time to learn one. And that is exactly the goal of HiASM.

          • Fabricio says:

            The problems of such visual designers is that they aren’t backed up with a ‘normal’ programming language behind the visual things.
            Then, when the routines becomes too complex, maintenance becomes slow as hell – as even little changes needs to be tracked visually.
            SQL Server Integration Services uses that concept of visual programming. To do a little thing, you lose A WHOLE LOT OF TIME… It’s boring, error prone and makes the one operating loses precious time.

            • Torbins says:

              Now, with Visual LiveBindings Delphi is moving in the same direction. Do you think this will cause problems? I think Visual LiveBindings will be very good for programming interface logic.

              • Fabricio says:

                I don’t saw the VLB demos/shows as we’ll skip XE3 here.
                But I believe that you can refine it on code, after doing the basic ‘wiring’ visually, doesn’t?

                My trouble is with Visual-only environments.

  12. WarrenP says:

    Totally agree with you about this:

    “Embarcadero would do well to make long-term growth, and getting Delphi into the
    hands of younger developers, their top priority going forward. ”

    The current model basically boils down to “selling products to guys who don’t seem to be able to learn a new language after they learned Turbo Pascal in the 80s”, and there’s no long term business model there!

    I’m 42, but my 15 year old son is learning Delphi and enjoying it. Any EULA changes that make it hard for kids to learn and use Delphi would be dumb. In my opinion, Embarcadero should offer free licenses to highschool computer science teachers who want to teach development and provide not only desktop, but web, and mobile development, on a single language technology that’s easy for anyone to learn. NOW THAT would be a smart move.

    W

  13. As a Delphi user I don’t concern myself with EMBT inside operations. I look only at the Delphi product features and price. If I were looking to invest in EMBT then I would be concerned with business operations. Now on to some reading for XE3…

  14. Felipe says:

    I’m totally agree, what you propose is so factible that even microsoft has it, why embarcadero can´t?, i mean if embarcadero really cares about their clients (developer community) then they should strat according to what they say. FreePascal is grownig too and lazarus too, they have more often releases and a growing community.

    check this out, http://www.pilotlogic.com/sitejoom/index.php/codetyphon, this is an amazing bundle.

  15. @Mason – This was a well timed and much needed post. Bravo Zulu.

    I’m 53 and for almost 10 years (2000-2010) didn’t once look at Delphi. I have a huge gap that I’m trying to overcome going from Delphi5 to D2010. It’s frustratingly fun. Most of the resources I knew and used have vanished but StackOverflow is amazing and I’m finding new resources every day.

    I’d love to see Delphi continue to grow and flourish. It is a powerfully simple, turnkey development environment.

    @David I – “We also created the 9 lesson “Getting Started with Windows and Mac Development course to teach new generations of developers how to use one set of source code to build applications for Windows and Mac.”

    Where can I get my hands on these lessons?

  16. William says:

    Just checked my QC reports, an item is still “Reported” after 9 years:

    http://qc.embarcadero.com/wc/qcmain.aspx?d=6406

    BTW, I already lost interest in the QC ages ago.

  17. Thanks for this post, it expresses pretty much what I’ve felt for quite a while. I’m not that much older than you (32 in December) and I have the same feeling as you do about the aging population.
    At the company I work for we have a very hard time recruiting people and the last two youngsters (25 and 27) had to be trained to Delphi as they either never heard of it or were told it was a dead product.
    I feel it’s been like forever that I have shouted loud and clear that Borland/Inprise/Codegear/Embarcadero should be aiming directly at schools and universities, and put ads in most renown IT magazines here in France. The net result is that I feel I have wasted my time because I never got any answer, except for the occasional “There is no point in doing so”.
    Well, look at what the owners of WinDev are doing and see the results. I mislike that product quite a lot, but from a marketing point of view, they are very good with a much lower budget.
    I have read David’s answer and I can understand some of his points, but what I can’t understand is why I never got any answer from him despite my direct emails, even to the ones that were about a legitimate business proposal. It feels like I’m shouting in the wind…

    I’m still the JVCL coordinator, but frankly, I feel less and less inclined to put any effort into it. There are 30 members on the project at SourceForge, but how many are actually active? Well, only 5 in the past 6 months when we have quite a lot of issues in the tracker. Add to that the feeling that Delphi is being mistreated by its owner, and you get the feeling I’m having right now that I should have had a look at the other side of the fence earlier because I’m almost locked in a framework without a future…
    I’d like to feel optimistic, but frankly, it’s getting harder by the day, and as time goes by, I’m having less and less strength to defend Delphi against its detractors.

    I’m writing this down now because I felt the urge to talk about my feelings, but I don’t expect any change. I’ll keep working on the JVCL, but unless there are big changes in the way Delphi is managed, my hopes are very, very low.

    OBones

  18. You wrote: “The StackOverflow Top Users page for the Delphi tag has links to several profiles, most of which have ages. Have a look. There are a few people in their 20s and 30s, but not many.”

    I guess that the top users are generally the more experienced ones, and well, experience comes with age. IOW, I don’t think that that says a lot about the general age of Delphi developers.

  19. Fred Harding says:

    I am really one of the aging population. At 61 I am still developing programs with Delphi 7 such as Kindle Writer and program that enables authors novices and professionals to build and write books for the Kindle.

    http://www.kindlewriter.co.uk

    Why oh why does not Embarcodero do what Microsoft did and offer a free version of Delphi, and get the young to develop with it. Instead the pricing is too high, the software since Delphi 7 buggy, trying to be all things for all things and failing miserably. I think I am going to be the last of the few the way things are going.

    I wrote award winning software (BCS Awards in 2003) with my COSHH Management System

    http://www.teklinepublishing.co.uk/bcs.htm
    also done with Delphi 7

    Today, Delphi is far to expensive to upgrade or buy new, too many things I don’t want in a program so why cannot Embarcadero not provide a free version, and think long term. Once we oldies are gone, the company will be left with a boat without a paddle. Maybe the answer is Lazarus which is moving from strength to strength. At least that is free and fairly close to what I already know.

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