Thursday, September 29, 2005

Passionate producers = passionate consumers

I consider Nick to be a good friend, not only personally, but also a good friend to the Delphi community.  His zealous, passionate support for Delphi and the Delphi Development team certainly does not go unnoticed within these walls.  More than once, I've heard or have been known to say “Did you read Nick's latest blog post?”  Now, Nick, before you're cranial cavity expands beyond the point of comfortably traversing a doorway, I also have to say that Nick is most definately a human being as well.  With that, comes all the faults and foibles so many of us share.  I certainly have my fair share of faults... just ask my wife... It's probably a list in a 10meg Word document by now ;-)...

I highlight Nick because he is the epitomy of what he himself is talking about in this most recent blog post where he references this blog post by Kathy Sierra.  Nick is a passionate Delphi user.. you know the type.. “You'll get my Delphi when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.”  You know where he got that?  From the Delphi team.  Members come and member go, but at the core and at the very heart of what is Delphi is a group of passionate, dedicated, engineers.  More than once I've heard from former Delphi team members where they say “I remember my time on the Delphi team as some of the most fun and exciting time in my career.”  Even folks who were peripherally involved, such as former Developer Relations team members.  They all say the same thing.

So why has the Delphi team continued to be so passionate and driven despite any level of corporate maelstrom-du-jour?  I think everyone of you, the loyal, vocal, sometimes irritating, often combative, highly opinionated, yet consistently unwavering and passionate.  When Borland or even the Delphi team makes a mistake, we hear about it... I mean boy do we ever.  But the flip side is also what makes working on Delphi so rewarding; when we do it right, we also hear about it!

Doesn't Borland seem to be heading down this course of “professionalism” and straying away from the “passionate” and why?  In a word... ok a symbol “$”.  In and of itself, that isn't a bad thing.. I mean what would all the recent hurricane victims do if there wasn't a huge influx of “$”?  So overall money is good... 

Borland is currently in a transition, it's growing up.  Is that good?  According to Ms. Sierra and Mr. Graham, it's not and, frankly I think I agree.  Is Borland a lost cause?  Not at all.  I think what is happening is that is that this transition is more painful because it is so committed to making it happen.  I've been saying for a long time, that Borland is too small to act big, and too big to act small.  Being a publically traded company certainly complicates things and increases the pain level... because there is this other group that is neither its customers, nor its employees... they're the shareholders.  They're an impatient lot... hmmm.. sounds familier. I'd say that the Delphi community is just as impatient (when do we get a Unicode VCL?, what about 64bit?,  Is this .NET thing ever going to be real?).. but I digress.  There is certainly a desire throughout the management ranks to rekindle some of these ideas throughout the development teams.  Will they succeed?  Time will tell.

For my part, being a torch bearer for Delphi has been a tough position to be in.  But I see a few glimmers of hope.  Recently, I was involved with a lengthly email thread that involved Rick Jackson, the Borland Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) regarding “why isn't Delphi 'just an IDE'?”  I don't pretend to take credit for this by any means, since there were many, many others involved, but the result of that thread was this posting.  In fact here's some excerpts from what I wrote:

About the Delphi customer/fan base:

Maybe this has been said before and maybe this is news to some... but pigeonholing Delphi into the "its just an IDE" space is really, really missing the whole point.  Delphi is far more than simply an IDE.  In fact, for Delphi the IDE is merely a convenient place for all the technologies that surround Delphi to converge.  Delphi is a proprietary language (one that Borland wholly owns), it is a component framework from which many others are measured, including Microsoft .NET Windows Forms Framework. <snip>.  The Delphi customer base is a loyal, rabid fan base.  What other product has this kind of following, at Borland or any other company for that matter?  The near cult-like following that is the Delphi market is not one to be shunned or scorned, either directly or indirectly by gross omission.  It is one that should be nurtured and cultivated...from all facets of the company.

How is Delphi different from other “IDE” products such as JBuilder, or even Eclipse?

Why is it that Delphi seems to continually and consistently bring in a stable revenue stream?  Consider the difference between JBuilder and Delphi. Borland doesn't own the language, the compiler, or even the frameworks.  JBuilder was, in effect, just an IDE.  Of course that market suffered from erosion from Eclipse and other entries in the Java IDE market.  It was relatively easy for someone to move between the different IDEs.  The same language and the same frameworks existed and worked with all the different IDEs.  The IDEs could only compete on features, JDK support, J2EE support, etc..  <snip>

Please, if you're a JBuilder customer, don't take this as some attack on JBuilder because, frankly JBuilder is an absolutely awesome tool!  I have nothing but respect and admiration for how much JBuilder has served to “raise the bar” among all IDEs.

My summary on what Delphi truly is:

So, no, Delphi is not just an IDE.  Take away any one of these three things; the language, framework, development environment, and Delphi ceases being Delphi.

Not to leave it out, but I also included C++Builder as well.

What about C++Builder?  It is very similar situation as well.  While, yes it is based on the widely used C++ language, it is no less proprietary.  In order to properly support the Delphi VCL framework, and since we also control both the C++ and Delphi compilers, we were able to extend the C++ language in such a way as to allow the use of the Delphi/Pascal VCL framework to be used with C++.  In fact, C++Builder would have not existed without Delphi.  The Delphi compiler actually directly generates all the necessary supporting files and libraries required for a C++Builder application.  The relationship between Delphi and C++Builder is very symbiotic.  Like the Delphi market, the C++Builder market is no less loyal and near cult-like.  <snip>  Remember the open letter from the C++Builder community to Borland?  What customer base, even a C++ customer base, would take the time to create a letter and get signatures from many rather large installations?

And finally, about the Delphi/C++Builder team:

This rabid following both for Delphi and C++ Builder translates directly to the development teams.  Most of the members of the Delphi/C++Builder team love working on the product not only because they believe in the product, but also because they know and understand the Delphi and C++Builder market and its customers.

So any place you see “<snip>”, they're just a few places were some internally sensitive statements were made.. but that amounts to about 4 sentences and don't really add any more to the tone of what I was trying to say.  By all counts, this message was heard loud and clear.  Within the next two weeks, corporate marketing (not to belabor the point but, yes, folks there actually is a group called “marketing” in Borland :-) was requesting an audience with nearly all the members of the Delphi team.  We sat down in a conference room for 2.5 hours where we got to explain Delphi, the Delphi team, the Delphi market, and the Delphi product to this team.  There were about 4 members of the marketing team listening and writing furiously as many members of the Delphi team proceeded to enthusiastically, passionately and fevently explain why Delphi is important.  Many points were raised, most of which I've already covered above.  The level of detail was intense.

So what about all this recent bruhaha surrounding the idea of Delphi being bought out?  Well, if I did actually know anything, I couldn't comment, that's for sure... but one thing I will say is that it is certainly fun to fantasize and ponder “what would the world be like if..?“  Then once you begin to follow that train of thought, with the logistics, the turmoil, the FUD, all of which would be obsticles that I shudder to think about it.  Maybe, maybe not..  let's move on folks.

So will this post get me fired?  I don't know, I doubt it.  I just wanted folks to know that we're not a passive team, and that there are still many champions within Borland for Delphi.  The tireless efforts of John Kaster, Anders Ohlsson, and David I, should be commended as well.  As should other Delphi team members, such as DannySteve Trefethen, Chris Hesik, and others for their continued blogging efforts.