I enjoyed the Twitter live-coverage and exciting revelations of DelphiLive! particularly from JimMcKeeth and marcocantu but also many others. Despite the surprise revelations of Project X etc a particular slide caught my eye amongst the many others:
Did you see it? ..ISVs, VARs, Consultants and Hobbyists.. I jumped at the phrase and asked Jim whether any of the Product Roadmaps he’d seen at DelphiLive had revealed any plans for a renewed focus on Turbo or Hobbyist editions of Delphi however it seems that they did not specifically mention anything. Luckily Jim had noticed the significance of this typo phrase too and was kind enough to pose my question to the new Delphi Product Manager, Michael Rozlog:
I should make it entirely clear that this should not be read as a statement of intent from Michael or Embarcadero but merely an indication of Michael‘s personal thoughts on Turbo or Personal Delphi editions. This is encouraging news though, as many of you will know I wrote a long Open letter to Codegear on the subject of the sadly neglected Turbos and received a lot of feedback indicating that many of you felt the same way.
So what now?
Personally I’m thrilled that there seems to be at least some internal support for a renewed Turbo or Personal Delphi Edition but as usual, the devil is in the detail, How can we get a great home/hobbyist product (as opposed to a crippled and essentially useless product) without costing Codegear precious sales/revenue?
There are several different facets to this problem:
- What type of audience is the product is actually targetting? (Home users, Small ISVs, commercial vs strictly hobbyists?)
- How should product be limited for that audience without damaging it’s viability or sales of the full product (As Delphi’s fate is intertwined with that of Codegear – not something we want).
There are three different potential products in my mind:
- A Purchasable Commercial Product which is essentially a step down from Delphi Professional SKU in both price and features made for smaller software shops and developers that don’t need the features of the full versions.
- A Non-commercially licensed product equivalent to the educational edition (which If I remember correctly is the Professional SKU?) where the price is a token amount to cover the cost of the bandwidth and packaging cost of the product.
- A Commercially licensed but absolutely free product which is crippled in its functionality and features even more than the current Turbo Explorer Editions.
As you might have guessed from my use of mildly emotive language in the 3rd point above and in my Open Letter to Codegear regarding the Turbos I consider the 3rd Option to be a non-offering. Sadly, previous statements from the former Delphi Product Manager, Nick Hodges, hinted that this was also the way he felt it might go.
I would be interested to see how the previous editions of Delphi impacted Sales (there must be paperwork, come on?) as I felt that these were always an amazing offering for Hobbyists and Home users wanting to take up the language (I remember finding Delphi 6 Personal on a magazine cover disc – presumably thanks to the always excellent Tim Anderson).
I would ideally like to see something in between the 2nd and 3rd options option a reality, I am not qualified to make a factual assertion on this but I don’t think it would hurt sales if strictly limited to non-commercial use in the license. Massive Feature limiting such as removing the ability to use 3rd Party VCL components as the Turbo Editions persued removes some of the most well-known and advantageous reasons for using Delphi in my opinion and is therefore unsuitable for an ambassador product (which these editions would be). I won’t rehash my argument about why the product needs to be both free and well featured (see my Turbo Delphi Open Letter) but I will say this:
Whether it is fair or not, Microsoft and the Eclipse foundation have forced their hand – a reasonably useful free IDE for home and hobbyist users wanting to experiment with a language is now a minimum requirement for competitiveness in the programming language market.
It is worth noting that the Updated Personal or Turbo delphi is currently only number 8 on the list requests at the Delphi Uservoice page, we really need people to vote for it and also to discuss their thoughts on the potential product in the comments over there.
Michael suggested that he was looking for feedback, so I’m looking for feedback. Firstly: What would your Turbo or Personal Product look like and secondly: what would you do if you were the Delphi Product Manager? How do the results of these two views differ? Please think about it and then either put it in the comments below or on the Delphi Uservoice page.