The alternative Delphi roadmap to success
An open letter to Borland/DevCo/DTG
Written by Simon Kissel, October 12th 2006
Update Oct 30th:
Borland has now posted a public survey about Borland Developer Studio/Delphi to find out what their customers really are after. You can find the survey here.
It's a pretty good survey IMHO. However I'm a bit depressed that it doesn't include any Kylix/Linux-specific questions (to find out if people would want to use BDS for developing server-side Linux applications or GUI stuff etc) - after getting so much feedback from people interested in this area (yeah, that's my main interest, I admit it ;) it's sad they didn't include questions about it (the only question is if you plan to target Linux now/in the future, which right now will give a pretty skewed result with Borland offering nothing in this area - after all, a "yes" on this question implies that you are going to be an ex-customer...). I guess this still is one of those "we don't want to hear what our customers want as it conflicts with our roadmap plans" areas. But well, at least Win64 and Unicode and 'Native code vs .NET' are in the survey, so go take it.
Update Nov 3th:
If you care about having Linux as a deployment platform from inside the Delphi IDE (like CrossKylix, but with an updated compiler and supported by Borland) or care about having Delphi running under Linux, there now also is an unofficial Kylix survey created by Haruyuki Fujimaki and SiegfriedN. Over 250 people have already participated, and so should you! Realtime results can be seen here. Let's hope Borland/DTG takes a close look at this, too.
recently I've been very concerned about the roads taken by Borland/DevCo/DTG and how it may affect the future of Delphi, a tool I love and based my whole business on. After recent discussions on that matter in the borland.public.delphi.non-technical groups, I got the feeling that I'm by far not alone. I've therefore decided to do some hours of research and thoughts, and write all of this down.
The text below has been sent to my contacts at Borland, and afterwards been posted to the borland.public.delphi.non-technical. I'm very aware that Borland would have preferred if I would not have made this public, but while I have the highest possible respect for those folks (and I'd even go as far and call some Borlanders friends), I think that they are wrong. And I'm convinced they don't realize it. And I believe that the only way to get them back on track now will be massive pressure from the community, their partners and their customers. So, please understand that my intention is not to harm Borland/DTG, my intention is to put pressure on them so they start investigating if possibly their current strategy really is flawed.
If you think that I've got a point, feel free to link to this article. You may also provide Feedback in the borland.public.delphi.non-technical group, reachable with a newsreader like Outlook Express here, or by browser here. If you wish to contact me, you may mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, I recommend that you instead mail to Borland and post to the newsgroup listed above.
In this document I will show you that today, 80-90% of all Delphi customers are using native code development. I'll also show you that while many of them indeed are happy of the options given to one day being able to move to .NET, for the far majority features in the native code area plus improvements in the IDE itself right now are much more important then getting the latest and greatest of new .NET features today.
This document will also show that Borland's current roadmap contains of milestones relevant to only 10-20% of todays users, while the majority of 80-90% are not given important enough reasons to upgrade to newer versions.
Further, my findings will show that Borland's current strategy and roadmap includes a too high risk of losing large chunks of their todays customer base, with only little possible gains even in case their strategy works out.
I'll prove these points with detailed background information and feedback gathered, and I will propose an alternative roadmap that in my opinion will generate far better revenue for Borland, strengthen their position in todays markets while opening up interesting new markets for the future. My alternative roadmap does not imply Borland should be dropping its .NET offerings. But it clearly says that after 4 years of investments into their .NET visions, they now simply will have to focus on actual needs and requirements of the majority of their customers for a round or two again.
1.) Market analysis
I'll focus on the existing customers first. What do they use, and what are they interested in?
Let's investigate a few sources to find out.
a) Turbo download counts
(After verifying with other download mirrors, these numbers are believed to have a maximum deviation of 5%).
72% of people interested into Turbo Editions are interested in native development.
b) Component market
Delphi components that have seen updates/new releases by their authors/component vendors during the last 2 weeks - data taken from torry.net:
For comparsion, we are taking the Top 20 downloads from delphipages.com:
Lot's of interesting data here. We'll have a look at the Top 3 downloads:
AVLLock Gold Download counts:
Interesting: The highest single-version download count is for Delphi 7: 4688.
DISQLite3 Download counts:
VCL Skin 4:
c) Community feedback
On Wednesday, October 04, 2006, Nick Hodges asked Borland customers who decided not to upgrade to the current product offerings what the reason of this decision was. There was an overwhelming feedback, both in that blog's comments, as on the Borland public newsgroups.
The most frequent reasons for not upgrading given were (not ordered, just the most frequent answers given picked out):
If we filter out all answers not related to the roadmap, IOW sales, "no longer a customer" etc, this leaves us with:
Further, having a look outside this specific poll, there are indicators that most people that communicate on the Internet about Delphi are talking about Win32 - delphipraxis.net, Germany's biggest Delphi forum (548.737 postings) has even closed it's Delphi.NET subforum completely due to inactivity.
d) Borland quality central
For Delphi, the highest voted report with 738 votes is "Create native 64-bit compiler/IDE that targets AMD64 and Intel's 64-bit (IA-32e) extensions". Also, Unicode is on the list (79 votes). An additional request not mentioned yet is shipping dbexpress sources.
The other high-voted reports are about product defects.
For Delphi.NET, the highest voted entry has 220 votes, and is about allowing the usage of VS plugins inside BDS.
For the TOP10 reports of Delphi, a total of 1651 votes was given. For the TOP10 of Delphi.NET, a total of 316 votes was given.
84% of the votes given on QC are about native Delphi. Only 16% of the votes are given for Delphi.NET.
e) Versions used
While we don't have an exact source for this, the findings above indicate that there is a high number of Delphi users that haven't upgraded at all during the last years - it appears that right now there are much more users using Delphi 5,6,7 in production than customers using Delphi 2006. Indicators for this are:
This is interesting to note.
Market analysis summary:
Borland has often stated that voices raised on the Borland newsgroups are non-representive to their customer base at whole.
However, by investigating all available information sources, it seems like Borland is wrong about this.
We've seen that 72% of all Turbo Explorer downloads are about native Delphi/C++ code for Win32. We've seen that more than 99% of the Delphi component market are about native Delphi. We have seen that 84% of the votes given in Borland's QC feedback system are about native Delphi code.
We may safely assume that 80-90% of Delphi customers are interested in native code.
2.) Groups of Delphi customers
I'll now divide the possible buyers for new Delphi releases into the following categories:
While we don't have numbers about sizes of the groups here (this would be an interesting poll topic, though), I'm assuming the following (yes, this part is speculative):
3.) The current Delphi roadmap
Since the year 2002, Borland is focussing on .NET - for the last 4 years all product releases had a clear focus on .NET, with release cycles driven by .NET market needs.
The current Delphi roadmap lists Highlander as the next release, with focus on .NET 2.0 exlusively. The roadmap says: "There will be ongoing work for Win32 Delphi and Win32 C++ (such as unit testing and additional refactorings) but the most of the new work in Highlander will be focused on .NET 2.0.".
Comparing this with the results from our market analyis above, we come to the following conclusions:
Summing this up:
Let's have a look at the groups of potential buyers for a new Delphi version again:
Highlander will only sell to groups we have identified to be either small or nonexistent.
As we know that 80-90% of the customers who bought Delphi 2006 did so because of native development and are not represented on the Borland roadmap, many of them might be leaving Borland, looking for alternative solutions. In fact, from the feedback gathered many only still are with Borland because right now because they don't have a migration path away from Borland yet.
All in all, we can expect Highlander sales to be far worse compared to the ones from Delphi 2006.
The conclusion is that Highlander will be a failure.
"Delphi for Vista"
"Delphi for Vista" is planned to target the following things:
This is interesting, as it sounds like a gigantic effort. It basically means replicating everything Microsoft has done during the last years, trying to catch up. The fun part is that the features planned do no apply to any single group of current customers listed above. None of the features mentioned has been requested by anyone. The market for managed c++ is known to be a very small one, currently 100% taken by Microsoft.
Looking at it, this seems be be an insane plan - attack Microsoft in a small market they are years ahead with a 100% market share, while leaving behind your complete own customer base and all markets you are in yourself.
The motivation to put "Delphi for Vista" onto the roadmap appears to be a huge miracle.
"No code name yet" Delphi/C++ for Win64
It doesn't have a code name yet, it doesn't have a list of features planned yet, and the release date sounds highly unrealistic - just half a year after the biggest technological effort ever done at Borland for the the product with no market "Delphi for Vista", a Win64 release of Delphi is planned.
One has to think that there actually are no real plans for this yet, and that this was planted onto the roadmap simply to reduce the number of customers leaving Borland in frustration.
7, yes SEVEN years after the last native code innovation (Delphi 7, Kylix) from Borland, only one single feature of those required by the far majority of todays customers is going to implemented.
From the information gathered, the conclusions taken and from the impression the current roadmap gives, the conclusion is:
During the next few years, Borland/DevCo/BTP is going to lose about 80-90% of todays customers. This will be accelerated by the fact that one of the most important factors to Delphi's success is the component market. Due to the loss of Delphi customers, the component market already is very fragile as it is today, with already more than 50% of all commercial Delphi component vendors either going out of business or moving to other markets. As we have seen the component market also is highly dominated by native code components. Borland losing just another 20% or so their customers will mean that the component market will finally break down completely.
Borland's roadmap implies a high risk that the whole Delphi market and community will finally cease to exist. The roadmap appears to be a complete harakiri.
Summing all this up we can say: If you are native Delphi code user, a third-party component vendor, or part of the Delphi community, you will have to act now. You'll have to urge Borland to completely scrap the roadmap and create a new one from scratch, based on actual customer needs.
If you fail to do this, you should start working on a migration plan away from Delphi today. "Maybe they'll finally wake up in 2 or 3 years" won't help anymore, as it most likely will be too late by then.
5.) The alternative Roadmap
So, what could be done to turn the tides?
It's quite simple, actually: Simply do exactly what your customers ask you for. It's OK to have visions (and .NET clearly is one), and it's also OK to implement them if you can afford it.
The point is:
Borland can no longer afford investing more and more time, energy and money into visions instead of actual customer requirements.
Borland needs to completely scrap the current roadmap, and they need to do it now. Then they should do a detailed market survey just as I did, but with all the heaps of information they have in their hands.
And then, a new roadmap should be created. It could look like this:
In the Delphi 2007 timeframe, also re-activate the community efforts around Linux, so that a Linux RTL/VCL version can be done by the community for Delphi 2008. Ship CrossKylix again on the partner-CD, so that Delphi 2007 already inofficially will allow you working on Linux ports of server/middleware/apache/etc applications.
6.) Comparing the current and the alternative Roadmap
As we know, Delphi has lost market share massively. Therefore, it's important to boost sales number quickly again and to generate revenue before again investing into visions.
Let's compare the roadmaps:
The current Highlander plan is only attractive to roughly 10-20% of Borlands current customers. My alternative plan will be attractive to 80-90%.
My alternative plan comes with a nice bonus, too: As we know there is a huge chunk of customers that haven't upgraded at all during the last 4 years. We know that 100% of those customers are doing 100% native code only, because Delphi5/6/7 don't support .NET. You'll get revenue from many of them.
But there's more: The other big market player in native RAD Land, Microsoft, has just left the fields. Native Win32 RAD will bring in new customers. You are now able to conquer this market, instead of competing with Microsoft on a market they define.
I'm not a C++ guy, but from 1a) we know that there still also is a high interest in native RAD C++ development - the download counts for C++ are twice as high as those for Delphi.Net! Therefore, stop treating your C++ customers the way you did during the last years, and go get their money, too.
Due to the roadmap, there also will be another group of new customers:
Those interested in producing fast, native applications for multiple platforms.
I'll just give you one example: There is a gigantic market of PHP users. There is a gigantic market for Linux-based web applications.
Both typically run under Linux.
So, reactivate and refresh the old code you still got from Kylix, and enable those markets to take full benefit of the RAD toolchain you got (RAD IDE, dbexpress etc). Market Delphi as the ideal tool to write Apache modules and PHP extensions (buy in http://members.chello.be/ws36637/php4delphi.html, the technology is already there). You'll become market leader on a gigantic big market which still is growing every day, with next to no cost.
Summing this up:
Your current roadmap is based on implementing your visions instead of customer requirements. Your current roadmap is based on fighting for market share against the #1 leader, Microsoft. Your current roadmap is full of expensive investments, consuming all your resources. Your current roadmap is full of high risk, with very little to gain.
My proposed roadmap however is based on your customer requirements, generating confidence and revenue among those quickly again. It's also based on completeley taking over a still really big market with no competitor who's much stronger than you in sight. It also includes implementing paths to the future your customers will need. And it includes conquering new attractive markets with very low risk, but high possible gain.
Go, switch to the roadmap of success!
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