Whither or not Delphi....

Posted by on in Blogs

OK.. I've have a few days to digest, mull over, and otherwise consume Julian's post regarding the reasons Delphi should be migrated into Visual Studio.  All in all it was a well reasoned article and on the surface it looks like a “no-brainer.”  However, I'm going to toss the proverbial “spanner” into the works.

First of all, does anybody really think that Borland hasn't ever looked into what it would look like for Delphi to be hosted in the Visual Studio IDE?  I mean, we're in business to make money.  And as much of it as we think we can.  It only makes sense to explore every avenue of opportunity, no matter what you're emotional ties are to a particular way of doing things.  Of course I cannot comment on anything specific regarding any kinds of future plans regarding Delphi and Visual Studio.  I will however outline a few things in order to dispell several myths surrounding the notion that moving to VS somehow magically gives us a huge boost.

First, lets outline some rules of engagement.  First of all, I'm not talking about a “Delphi language plug-in.”  On the surface that seems like a very simple and “no-brainer” kind of thing to do.  However, I'm not interested in having Delphi be simply another “also-ran” in the sea of Visual Studio plugins and third-party languages.  Delphi has an identity all its own, both in its market and its overall look and feel.  Delphi would have to retain a lot of this identity.  This raises the bar to a level beyond simply installing Delphi into an existing VS installation.  Yes, Microsoft does offer a program that allows third-parties to deliver and install the core VS bits in addition to that vendor's specific enhancements.  The problem is that it still has the Microsoft identity plastered all over it in such a way that Delphi would still be relegated to “also-ran” status.

OK, so we've outlined some of the up-front intangible costs associated with moving Delphi into VS.  Now lets looks at some of the real costs.  Let's define what Visual Studio really is.  Basically, VS is simply a shell that provides some core services, such as a text editor, menu and window/docking management, some core-debugger services, and some core project management services.  Other things like the compilers, expression evaluators, syntax highlighting, Intellisense, etc.. are all items that are pushed out to the “language plug-in”  These are things Borland would have to provide.  What about the designers, like the WinForm,  ASP.NET  and let's throw in the CF designers?  So far it is unclear whether or not these items are actually part of the core VS redist bits.  Especially the CF designer bits.  You know that it won't include any kind of support for VCL (Win32 or .NET), so that is something only Borland can provide.  Then there is the notion of the smart device emulators (for running and debugging CF applications without the need for a physical device).  These don't come with the core VS redist bits.

So far, you might be saying, “So? Just require that the user purchase VS to get all those extra bits.”  Hmm... good idea... not! How can we, with a straight face, tell our customers, you, that you need to toss a chunk of cash at MS and at Borland?  No, you want to buy one product, install it, and be good to go.  So then we're stuck with selling into VS shops, which has it's own brand of issues... well you get the picture.

So let's do a little math and check the score:

Visual Studio Core

    1. Editor
    2. Debugger (Win32/.NET/CF)
    3. Menus/Windows/docking
    4. Project Manager

Galileo Core (present Delphi IDE core)

  1. Editor
  2. Debugger(Win32/.NET).
  3. Menus/Windows/docking
  4. Project Manager

I'm sure that's not quite an exhaustive list, but you get the idea here.  There are probably several things that the Galileo core provides that the VS core does not, and vice versa.  Now let's look at what Borland must supply:

Visual Studio Core

  1. Delphi Compilers (.NET & Win32)
  2. Delphi language bindings (syntax highlighting, error insight, Intellisense, etc...).
  3. ASP.NET Designer
  4. WinForm designer.
  5. Expression evaluator (for debugging).
  6. VCL design-time package management
  7. VCL/Win32 Designer
  8. VCL/.NET Designer
  9. CodeDOM
  10. ECO
  11. Modelling
  12. Refactoring engine and code for specific refactorings

Galileo Core

  1. Delphi Compilers (.NET & Win32)
  2. Delphi language bindings (syntax highlighting, error insight, Intellisense, etc...).
  3. ASP.NET Designer
  4. WinForm Designer
  5. Expression evaluator (for debugging).
  6. VCL design-time package management
  7. VCL/Win32 Designer
  8. VCL/.NET Designer
  9. CodeDOM
  10. ECO
  11. Modelling
  12. Refactoring engine and code for specific refactorings

Hm... That's interesting.  I'm not seeing the advantage here.  The VS core and the Galileo core are essentially done.  They're sunk costs.  What the above list doesn't depict is the team cost involved in just moving what we have today onto VS.  That would be a very large task to just get to where we are today.  That doesn't include any new features.  Sure, there would be some increase in feature-set simply from the move to VS, but what those features would be I can't say because I don't know.  Yes, we'd be freed from the task of maintaining the IDE core, but to put that into perspective, in the Delphi 2005 product release, I imagine that there was only about 1-2 man-months of real core IDE work.  There was some core work to add some features, but quite honestly these were features that would not have come from some VS core either.

Now comes the argument, “what about all those third-party VS add-ons you can now leverage?”  Sounds great, in theory, however in practice I'm much more skeptical.  I know how development works and I know developers.  I can see that the following scenario would become all too common:  I install some whiz-bang VS add-on and point it at some Delphi source file.  I tell the add-in to “do it's thing”... Now I watch in horror as I see C# or VB code injected into my Delphi source code module!  Then there's this one, I try and point some hot new add-in at the VCL form designer, and all it can do is sit there twiddling it's thumbs.

How about, “what happens if MS slips the next release of VS?“  Well that's a good question.  Borland has a fiduciary responsibility to its stockholders to be profitable.  Much of that ability to make a profit is being in control of one's own destiny.  If we cannot meet revenue targets, we let down not only ourselves and our customers, but also our stockholders.  So now we're relegated into always delivering on the previous rev of VS.  Not a very attractive prospect in today's market.  Of course we may end up wrestling with a very similar issue with the recent unsubstantiated rumor that MS has slipped the delivery of .NET 2.0 into late summer or early fall of 2005!

Here's another one I've heard, “Oh that Allen guy is the Galileo IDE architect.  He's just protecting his code and his job.”  No.  I'd like to think that I'm not that shallow or egocentric.  Sure I have an ego, and it can be bruised, but I'm also very pragmatic.  As soon as I see the benefit to Delphi, the product, and to Borland the company, you bet I'd be on board.

Finally, and I hesitate to even mention this because it tends to bring out the worst in folks, there is the notion of whether or not our existing Delphi customers would accept a Delphi release built on VS?  What would they be willing to pay?  What if they already have VS, do they pay the same price?  These are not questions I'm prepared to answer or even profess to to answer.  I know what my gut tells me.  I'm a developer, so I'd like to think I know developers and have a little insight into what makes them tick.  We share much of the same passions and ideas.  I don't know, maybe the Delphi folks will surprise me.

Oh.. BTW, Julian used to work for Microsoft in the Visual Studio group... but, he, as am I, are certainly not biased in any way ;-)..



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Comments

  • Guest
    Peter Sanders Wednesday, 2 February 2005

    Hi



    I cannot see WHY anybody would want to encumber http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi with VS!!!!!



    http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi is of itself a completely useful and creative "tool". I have never ever been a fan of overly slow an bloated software. I detest the use of some software that needs another piece of software to complete it's functionality - a dll is my preferred limit and this is only due to Windows. I fail to see the need VBX's OCX's ADO's DAO's ODBC's etc etc. (Yes, I know ODBC did help the DB world). I see them as "fixes" for the shortcommings in Microsoft's development process. Compounding this was/is the continual change of these "fixes" consequntly causing more and more fixups by/for the developer.



    I selcted http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi for the super development tool that it is. I progressed through various interations of the BASIC language - including VB and AccessVB.



    http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi (IMHO) is much quicker and more able out of the box (for me) than another language. I would hate to see it "kneecapped" by the diverse range of progammers at MS, after all they (MS) cannot really tie their own development into a fully coherent package - I guess this facet can now be covered by the fact that there are way too many people in the MS development team(s), and there are only so many ways you can achieve a particular result. Take Windows itself for example. We had flat buttons (win 3.x), 3D buttons (Win 9.x) and now coloured 3D buttons - with the option of Win 9.x buttons. I mean, yes it looks nice BUT it still only does the job of a button!



    regards



    Peter

  • Guest
    Grahame Grieve Wednesday, 2 February 2005

    Hi Allen



    interesting. What about Eclipse?



    Grahame

  • Guest
    Steve Moran Wednesday, 2 February 2005

    Microsoft is too big and has more concern for other things than what developers need, which is why it's not safe to depend on them. Borland has just the right strategy to exploit Microsoft platforms but not put all the eggs in one basket. Everything Microsoft does is irredeemably messy, and unsatisfactory, and well I have to say half-assed. It's not that I like http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi with religious devotion, but I have never, ever been disappointed or depressed by it, and I still feel as excited by it as I did for version 1. It's just got it. That's really what I feel, and believe, and I do know some other languages. None of them has ever appealed to me this way. So to conclude, don't give away the shop. That is my state of the http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi nation address.

  • Guest
    DDDD - David the Disgruntled Delphi Developer Wednesday, 2 February 2005

    The reason so many people are posting the problem is http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi developers are sick of waiting for http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi to catch up with the rest of the development world. The amount of time we had to wait for .NET support was crazy and the end result was buggy and useless (crash, crash, crash, crash).



    Visual Studio is a slick editor with more productivity features. The standard edition of Visual C# has more features than http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi 8/2005 Enterprise and is more reliable to work with 8 hours a day. http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi has become a waste of money for todays professional developer and Borland need to look at lifting their game.



    David

  • Guest
    JQL Wednesday, 2 February 2005

    I have both VS and http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi and much prefer http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi. Though I must agree with "DDDD" about the delay in *certain* productivity features in http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi.

  • Guest
    Allen Bauer Thursday, 3 February 2005

    So, DDDD... tell us how you really feel ;-) I do, however, think you are speaking in a bit of hyperbole, WRT VS standard.

  • Guest
    Arun singh Thursday, 3 February 2005

    I have been using http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi since version 2 up to 7. Well I learned http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi on my own using books, manuals and help. Well up to now we were into windows development world. Now suddenly the web thing caught up. Well Borland came up with Delhi 8 and http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi 2005 as answer for web development. But guess what.. it suddenly looks like a Greek language. Hmm.. so what did Borland did wrong. Well there is no book, no manual not even good help files which guides enough towards web development. I am honestly thinking of moving to C#. Trust me, if this is how Borland functions.. then in another few years there won't be http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi any more .. Sadly ... Regards

  • Guest
    Kyle Miller Thursday, 3 February 2005

    Allen,



    You are right on! Borland has chose, created, and controls much more of their course vs. piggybacking on Microsoft. Great job!



    DDDD -

    While http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi might be missing some useful features that VS has, the converse is true too. Got Eco? Got refactoring? Not yet in VS. http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi has it _now_.



    Arun singh -

    Look in http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi help for numerous topics on building web applications in .NET and Win32. And since you have used D2-7 for web development, you will be happy to know WebBroker and WebSnap are in http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi 2005. When you are ready for IntraWeb and ASP.NET, they will be there.



    Remember, you can use a non-Delphi ASP.NET book because ASP.NET is a framework, not a language. Not too difficult to translate C# into http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi. You can also get the http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi.Net Developers Guide which has an ASP.NET chapter or two.

    http://tinyurl.com/6j39g">http://tinyurl.com/6j39g

  • Guest
    John Dempsey Thursday, 3 February 2005

    I for sure won't be switching from http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi 7.0 until newer versions get CodeRush support again. I'm currently playing with VS.Net + CRush and it's not bad, unlike previous VS encarnations.

  • Guest
    Peter Sleuth Thursday, 3 February 2005

    the Galileo-IDE for http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi-development will always have advantages over VS.NET and Eclipse:



    a) the Galileo-IDE has been created specifically with http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi in mind (and C# + C++)

    b) Borland has full control over it (both source and copyright wise).



    On the other hand, developers that have to deal with source-code in various programming languages (mostly one main development language and some code in other languages) prefer to work in one IDE for all development tasks. As VS.Net and at least to some part Eclipse support more programming languages than the Galileo-IDE (at least so far, you should hurry up to publish the interfaces for custom personalities and encourage thirdparties to add more personalities), it would be preferrable if http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi-the language, compiler etc., could be used from within VS.Net or Eclipse (for those that already have VS.Net). But this is not an either or-decision.



    So from a customer point of view, I would like to see both the Galileo-IDE as the main http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi-IDE for advanced http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi-development, and at the same time some basic support for http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi in VS.Net.



    If I buy future http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi-versions, I would like to see the Galileo-IDE in the box (as main IDE) and an Add-In that adds basic http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi-language support to VS.NET if VS.Net should already be installed on that machine (quite a few developers have MSDN-subscriptions, so VS.Net might already be there).



    With "basic support" I mean a simple Edit, compile, run and debug support, not necessarily all bells and whistles regarding form designers for Winforms, ASP.NET etc., insight-tools etc.



    From a Borland point of view, it remains the question if Borland could make enough money by offering both http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi within the Galileo-IDE and additionally as an Addin for VS.Net. Assuming that this is probably a good amount of work, I fear that this might not be a profitable endeavour for you.



    So from a customer point of view, a great idea, from a borland point of view probably just unprofitable.



    As a compromise, you might consider creating a very basic http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi-addin for VS.Net (thus only a smaller investment), that does just edit, compile and run existing http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi-projects, and bundle this with http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi-Architect editions (that ship the Galileo-IDE) to encourage more users to buy this SKU.

  • Guest
    Peter Sleuth Thursday, 3 February 2005

    furtheron,



    I see Eiffel-software (www.eiffel.com) as a customer friendly role model. They offer both their own IDE (EiffelStudio) and a plugin for VS.Net (Eiffel Envision). From a customer point of view it is all about choice, the freedom to choose the IDE you would like to work with, and still have your preferred language available.



    In a perfect world, Borland would offer its own Galileo-based IDE and in addition http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi-plugins for VS.Net and Eclipse.



    In reality, this is probably not going to happen...

  • Guest
    ralph knight Thursday, 3 February 2005

    Visual http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi?



    I think not. First VB x then VD 1



    VD 1



    How would one market a product that unfortunate title.



    Ralph

  • Guest
    Valtasar Thursday, 3 February 2005

    Current http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi release is unstable. It's sad to say, but it is.



    It's bad to feel like a beta tester, using commercial product, you have paid for.



    Borland should give 2005 for a small amount of money (if, you guys so hury to roll it out), ask customers to forgive you for delay and work, work and still work on polishing product.

    We can wait.

    The worst thing is ask people to pay for a half ready product. And you guys did it twice in row. MS realize it very well. The do not hesitate postpone the product and have a lot of betas. It's their marketing strategy.



    Seems like Borland doesn't understand that.

    You have to do something or product will be dead in the close future.



    We can talk a lot about thechnical advantages, but management always measure money only (IMHO). For them Borland is far behind MS on NET platform, and it really is, because MS in in charge, not Borland.



    On the other hand D2005 Win32 hasn't anything we can't do in D7. Significant i mean. Not a bells and wistles.



    We evaluated D2005, and reported to management that it is great, but have some problems. We tryed to be polite and temperate as much as possible. But upgrade program is wrapped up.



    For me, http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi IDE is one of the best on the market! It's definitely better then VS. But Borland still need to show it to the people somehow.

  • Guest
    Paulo Cesar Saturday, 5 February 2005

    last post, shows that every community has sense in relation to Borland in Delphi8/2005.

  • Guest
    Steve Teixeira Tuesday, 8 February 2005

    Allen,



    I'm sure you all have considered this, but I'll mention it anyway: I'll bet if Borland went to the MS VS team and said, "hey, we're thinking of dropping our IDE and using yours instead," a lot of doors would open. Your post kind of implies that you would have to integrate with VS as if you were just another dime-a-dozen GUI widget vendor. I would bet you could have a very serious discussion with MS about creating a co-branded Borland/MS version of VS. I would bet you could convince them to open more of the kimono and make greater business and R&D commitments than those normally available to your average (or even above average) VSIP member.



    It's true that you've already paid the price of entry, so to speak, for Galileo IDE, but it's not like you would throw all of that away tomorrow. That IDE would still have at least a couple of years of life even if you decided today to integrate with VS. I can only think of the cool things that you, Dave, Chris, and everyone else could be doing if you weren't so busy with the care and feeding of stuff that already exists in VS. Instead of looking at this from the point of view of "what work we would have to do to integrate with VS?" I think it's worth looking at things from the standpoint of "what concessions could MS offer that would make using VS a better strategy?" Then, on the business side, you try to get those things from MS. If you can accept that there is some set of things MS can do for you that would change the landscape enough that VS integration totally makes semse, then you are accepting that this is a business problem, not a technical one. It's just a matter trying to get the right terms.



    There's no doubt that hitching your major releases to VS releases would present new business challenges. While some might say this makes such a plan incompatible with Borland's IDE business model, I would suggest that the model needs changing. I'm not sure the "let's pass an elephant every 12-18 months" model for developers tools is still the best way to go. Breaking out of it would force the business to smooth out the inevitable revenue dips of the annual release model, which might not be such a bad thing. It could also spawn a greater degree of creativity and willingness to take risks on smaller releases where less is at stake -- the best of these could grow into bigger, more important products.



    -steve

  • Guest
    Allen Bauer Tuesday, 8 February 2005

    Steve,



    You'd think that wouldn't you? While I cannot comment on the specifics, I can most surely say that this has not been the case. What I presented was, in fact, the current state of affairs WRT VS. There have been little to no "consessions" that I'm aware of.

  • Guest
    Julian Bucknall Tuesday, 8 February 2005

    Allen



    Good points all. Mind you, I'd have to say that professional developers would already have Visual Studio: it's part of the various MSDN subscriptions from Professional on up.



    All the professional developers I know of already have this (either personally purchased or as part of their work) since it gives them the operating systems, server products, SQL Server, etc, as well as VS.



    So it's not as if professional developers would have to specially buy VS for http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi/VS.



    Cheers, Julian

  • Guest
    Allen Bauer Tuesday, 8 February 2005

    Julian,



    That is an issue we've yet to qualitify. It is unclear that a large enough percentage of the existing http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi customer-base has VS. In theory, it seems to make sense because the MSDN provides a lot of value for the Windows developers in general. However, I also think there is a large contingent of our customer base that does *not* have VS, nor the MSDN. Especially in the regions outside the US. Which is where a huge portion of http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi sales are generated.

  • Guest
    John Demigor Tuesday, 8 February 2005

    It's funny to see the comparison, saying that Visual Studio Core elements = Galileo Core elements.



    Allen, you forgot that in VS-case you don't need to reinvent C# wheels for Galileo IDE, C++, C++ 64-bit, CF designers, it's all already there. And Borland could concentrate on http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi part and spare resources on C# stuff.



    The only real thing Borland has in .NET world is ECO.

    Make it available for all VS.NET developers and it'll make Borland rich.



    As for Object Pascal, if it stays in its current shape it will be replaced by fast evolving C# in next few years.



    Even here, in Europe, where Borland has its last bastion.

  • Guest
    Allen Bauer Wednesday, 9 February 2005

    John,

    Did you not read the article? All those bits you mention do *not* come with the redist version of VS. Basically what you get is the core I mentioned, the rest is left as an excercise for Borland. I have also outlined the reason http://www.borland.com/delphi" target="_blank">Delphi shouldn't be "just a plug-in," which is what it would be relegated to being should we require that the user already have installed VS obtained separately.

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