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.


  1. I'm glad to hear the bit about Delphi "continually and consistently bring[ing] in a stable revenue stream." I will be starting a new project soon and the first decision will be what tools to use. I can use that quote to help argue that Delphi isn't going away soon. (The information about the 64 bit compiler in the road map helps too because the program will need more than 2 GB of memory in some cases.)

  2. Nice post!

    You forgot to mention about that crazy tech support guy who submitted all sorts of code examples, who wrote the productivity plug-ins, the CF preprocessor, etc... ;o)

    "passionately and fevently explain why Delphi is important" should read "passionately and fervently explain why Delphi is important". ;o)

    fervently chewy.

  3. awesome post.

    so the mistery has been revealed at last.

    there's actually a marketing dept. at Borland.

    did you guys get to sneak Kyilx in the conversation ?

    zealously pro-delphi yours,


  4. There is no line between hobby and work for me. Programming is it - it is my business, my fun, my therapy, etc. Delphi is what makes it fun and not frustrating. Always has. I can use and have had to use just about everything out there at one time or another. Delphi is the bar and no one has touched it yet. My company’s future rides on Delphi's. Not because I couldn't move it to something else, but because I would lose the enthusiasm of waking up in the afternoon ;) and sitting down to best damn application dev tool there is.

    I don't do the newsgroups like non-tech, only post/read a few blogs, so I'm not really all that vocal but PLEASE know that EVERY time I get paid by a customer or beat a competitor, part of my success is because of your team and the hard work put into it. Borland and Delphi are the top tier for me.

  5. Great post, and very interesting info on Borland internals. You summarize Delphi as "Language, framework, development environment", I'd add "community" as the fourth leg (yes, you mention it at large in this blog post, as I do in my blog post "why Delphi"). I was discussing this two days ago at EKON: Borland shuold "shepard" and help building this community, help the Delphi-related open source projects in any possible way (like you are doing with fastmm, fastcode...), keep the community gurus in the business loop (I seems to be unable even to be a formal Borland partner, these days, and that's not just me): with the last printed magazine going online only Borland needs to put effort (and money) into this!

  6. Allen:

    Delphi is a great product and you bunch are the envy of many developers. please continue to give us rabid fans the best and greatest.

    No wonder you guys are not getting the respect due. Your marketing people don't know the difference between an IDE and a very good home grown proprietary and money making Framework and ah, your CTO continues to write long winded marketing poetry trying to impress the unimpressed.

    Keep your heads up.

  7. Thank You Allen,

    Posts like these restores some of the passion that has eroded for me recently. The relative silence on a roadmap and the quality issues in D2005 really made me doubt our future course of action.

    Some recent blog posts addressed alot of my concerns and just highlights to me how important openness with your customers is in this business. I just hope Borland Upper Management realises that they cannot keep their customers in the dark if they wish to keep them.

    Thanks again and keep up the great work.

  8. To: Ben du Preez

    You have written exactly my feelings!

    To Allen:

    I must say that I have a lot of blogs at my favorites, I read them quite all but with a fast reading, but when I get to click YOUR blog, I am impacient to read every single letter. I must say, that you have given me back, with your actions and words, what D2005 took from my heart, the PASSION for Delphi. Since 1997 every day I have been coding with Delphi, the first think I do when arriving at my office is make a cofee and click my Delphi Icon to bring it up to memory :-), and believe me, sometimes after hours of coding I even talked to Delphi as it where a a F1 Driver caress his car after a good race..(maybe somebody changed my cofee cup with a whisky cup). Seriously... I love absolutely Delphi, I have defended it against all VB developers, I allways used to say a setence from sombody at Borland "If it is possible in windows then it is possible with Delphi" and It allways has been so.. I even have developed a printer driver from scratch with Delphi... so to end... Thank you Allen and all other implicated for all, and.. may the force be with you.



  9. Great post Allen!

    Straight from the heart to our hearts.

    Without passion nothing is possible.

    Go Delphi!

    very best regards to whole Delphi Team,


  10. What a great post Allen !

    Keep on going this way , the Delphi spirit is even stronger :)

    Big thank to the whole Delphi Team

  11. Allen you're a DSL! (John Kaster can translate if needed :-))

    That was one awesome post. I have never doubted the passion of the Delphi development team, but it is still good to see you guys fighting so fervently for 'the cause'. It is also great that you finally seem to be making some headway into explaining the Delphi phenonemon to those within Borland who may not grok it fully.

    Keep up the great work!

  12. Fantastic stuff.

    I am part of the "loyal, rabid fanbase" because of the sheer excellence of the product, and it's commercial benefit to me: not through blind attachment.

    It's Borland's job to maintain Delphi's position as the most productive tool set. I KNOW that the team understand this (and probably relish the challege), but the execs must understand that to just match MS is to fail.

    Starving Delphi of resources will result in product stagnation + sales decline, and convert 'mature' product into 'legacy' product.

    They must also understand that downplaying the significance of Delphi to Borland can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  13. As I told John K in the newsgroups yesterday; I haven't been this excited about Delphi sice D5. I own all versions (Except 8) but I still work exclusively in D5. If you guys can follow through, I'll be converting everything to DeXter.

    There seems to be a new energy behind the whole product - Delphi is an enigma - it's Pascal for gods sake, and all the guys in our IT department laugh at me for using it - until they need something quick, and Delphi always wins the day and blows them away - but they still can't accept Pascal.

    You have a rabid, often bitchy, whiney, complaining following - but if they didn't love the product deep down, they'd have migrated to $soft ages ago - some people just like to hear the sound of their own voice. Keep up the good work guys.

  14. Finally! This is the kind of thing we want to hear and read from Borland, that demonstrates Delphi is understood for what it is, and not what marketing spinmeisters through the ages have tried to make it look like or sound to be.

    Great post!

  15. Great news

    These past months have been a difficult time. As a Delphi user since D1 I have been loath to move to another development package.

    Now I can look forward to D2006 and on. Lets see Delphi back where it should be at the top of the pile.

    Get those marketing guys going.

  16. Excellent!

    When I first required a Windows development system, decades ago, I had no preconceived allegiances. I chose D3 because, simply put, VB was just poor - slow, no threads and no classes. C++ was acres of gunge that was difficult to maintain, but Pascal looked like a real compiled language that made sense immediately when looking at a screenful of code.

    The impact of Delphi on my productivity was immediate and range of industry-encompassing functionality available blew me away by the time I got to D5.

    This is an awesome product that just *has* to continue to generate the class-leading solutions to customer and developer requirements that we've been used to.

    If I have to resort to C++ for regular development, I won't be signing any maintenance contracts!

    Keep it up - we appreciate it.



  17. Allen!!!!

    That was a wonderful post.

    Thank you.


  18. "rabid fan base"

    I like that. :)

  19. Absolutely correct on all counts. Its very good to hear that the development team are as passionate as the developers that use their product!

    Thanks for giving us this small insight!

  20. Allen:

    You already know that this was a great post.

    Make sure that your marketing people read this. 8:-)

  21. Great post...but you're a fan and not a controlling voice in Delphi's future! You may have a lot to do with what makes Delphi the great development plateform it is, but the marketing dept at Borland isn't listening to you or any other fan I know! Ambiguity seems to be the word to describe Borland and it's plans for Delphi. And it's target customer base is no longer what it used to be. Now a days it's aimed at the big corporate developer, and let's face it, they are never swayed by feelings of kinship for anything including what ever it might be they produce themselves! All they care about is bottom-line! The more Delphi caters to them and the less Delphi extends itself to the customer base that made it earn money for Borland, the quicker it will die from lack of interst or trust. Too many of us are tired of waiting until 6 months after release before a version is stable enough for daily use! We don't care about new features or how many different languages it can support! Get it to do just one thing right again and both Delphi and Borland might get turned around again, but continue adding more and more junk on the top of the system that hasn't been able to support itself for the last two versions and it will surely die! Personally I don't want to see that happen, but without positive change in the right direction it will!

  22. Allen,

    Thanks for the insight. What's amazingly disturbing is that a company has a marketing department that is not fully aware of what they are trying to market.

  23. Allen,

    A very brave and wonderful post. Please make sure that Marketing reads it and all the comments.

    It is difficult to get "outsiders" to understand why Delphi is so good yet this post encapsulates it. You only fully understand by using it as I have done virtually daily from version one!

    I know that the current version, Delphi 2005, has had its problems (probably due to senior management demanding it be released before it was fully ready ;-) ) but, Danny's recent Roadmap post leaves me extemely hopeful that DeXter will be the product we all wanted in D2005 and that Delphi, if properly marketed, will be the Language/IDE/Framework and Community of choice for everyone.

    I am very passionate about Delphi and, while I'm still breathing, won't miss a release.

  24. Marketing aside, I think a bigger problem with acceptance if the Delphi moniker tagged with both the language and IDE. Internally, we are considering a transition from Delphi to .NET, and we developers are having a difficult getting management to understand the difference between Delphi the language and the IDE.

    We have started referring to Delphi 2005 as BDS so that we can make the argument that Borland does C# just as well as (better) than Microsoft. If we are successful separating the language from the IDE, we may be able to continue using "Delphi" as we know it, without management being any wiser...

  25. Great post, and no different than what many have been crying for since D8: don't dilute our Delphi as just an IDE, just another language for .Net...

    But when Borland's marketing have to be explained what products they have and what their market is, when Danny speaks of slipping features below the radar for Win32 compiler, when users like Shawn look for ways to resist management... it feels a bit like Alamo.

  26. If those marketing guys are not up to the job, I am available.

    Delphi developers are more religious than any other almost any other group of customers anyone anywhere has (save for iPod customers).

    We need a developer with marketing knowledge to reset the target market for Delphi. Start with the individual-to-small teams that brought Delphi 1-5. Those people whose lives were changed by Delphi (I am one of them). We eat, sleep, drink Delphi.

    We write Delphi code right there in the middle of an army of VB developers. And we always kick-ass, every single time. We are the envy of producvitivy. We deliver real-world, working apps. We love our work. We enjoy Delphi. We will pay money to keep the product alive.

    what's wrong with those marketing guys?


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