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Fahrenheit VCL

Reading between the lines is not fun. After all, what's there is merely implied and not made explicit: it's just blank space with BackColor = clWhite. Seeing anything involves looking askance, or perhaps with prior expertise.

And that's what I feel like when I read the news coming from CodeGear. This is what they're saying in black and white, but there's a faint echo in there which can almost be resolved into text. It's sounds fun but really isn't.

So, it's with some reluctance that I note

  • There's no mention of the WinForms designer. Indeed, as I understand it, it's kaput. You should be using the forms designer that targets VCL.NET.
  • There's no mention of C#Builder. Now this maybe because the roadmap I'm looking at is, quote, for Delphi and C++Builder, unquote, but it is more realistically kaput too.
  • Despite having untold time to understand and support generics as implemented in .NET 2.0 (which was released in 2005, remember, and we're now in 2007), the Delphi for .NET in Highlander (later this year) will only consume generic types, you won't be able to create your own. You'll have to wait until Tiburón in 2008 sometime in order to do that in Delphi for .NET as well as your common-or-garden Delphi.[Update: in a further change to their roadmap, CodeGear stated that Highlander will be able to generate as well as consume generics.]

Set against all that are some great additions that are slated to appear over the next year or so, including, ASP.NET 2.0 support in Highlander, Unicode in the 32-bit version of Delphi and, much later, native 64-bit support. I even see that Tiburón is "expected to be given new support for UI elements such as Ribbon controls, theming, skinning, and other UI improvements." Nice. [Update: ever since I originally posted this, people haven't noticed I was being sarcastic here. Oh well.]

So, I look at all this with my Developer Express hat firmly in place, including all my biases from my deep history in the Delphi/VCL third-party marketplace.

First of all, a huge sigh of relief: no more WinForms in Borland Developer Studio (or whatever name it will now have). We can and will now firmly and rightly say: no, our .NET controls just won't work in BDS. Sure, you can still manually type code to create them and set their properties and assign event handlers, but our controls never will never work in BDS at design-time. If you want to use our .NET WinForms controls and have a rich, interactive design experience, you should be using Visual Studio 2005 or later.

Second, VCL.NET. I see the usual canard is still repeated in the CodeGear roadmap: "VCL developers will be able to easily migrate code to managed code using VCL.NET." On some projects maybe, but certainly not with our VCL controls. In fact, it's with some reluctance that I note that we just don't have the resources to even try. (The last product that supported VCL.NET was ExpressQuantumGrid 5.) So I'd have to say enhancing our VCL.NET support is no longer something we'll actively do, and we'll no longer market our support for it.

Third, Highlander's ASP.NET 2.0 support. The roadmap is very wishy-washy about what this will comprise (and my reading between the lines fails miserably), so I really can't say how this would impact us with regard to our ASP.NET products. Again there is the large issue of the design-time interface: we write our designers for Visual Studio not BDS, and I have no idea what would be involved in converting/rewriting them.

Fourth, at least a year away from Tiburón and major changes in the language. Part of me heaves a sigh of relief; part of me shakes my head in disbelief -- I really don't know what to think about this. VS2008 will appear with .NET 3.5 and C# 3.0 and a designer for WPF well before Tiburón. So, let's see: LINQ and lambda expressions and quasi-functional programming and WPF controls and other fun things for us to design and develop, before Delphi even gets the ability to create a single generic type. [Update: again, CodeGear changed the roadmap, and Highlander will support creation of generics in Delphi for .NET.] I think it's fair to say that VS2008 will have a huge impact on us as a company. So, in equal parts, disbelief (CodeGear are continually rebuked for being slow to catch up) and relief (I can perhaps reallocate some of our VCL team to writing WPF controls in the interim).

Fifth, Unicode. Love it, approve wholeheartedly, should have been there years ago, but, man, do I worry what it's going to do to our codebase and, by extension, to our customers. I see this as being a much bigger change than from 16-bit to 32-bit, but maybe I'm just a scaredy-cat. More on this when we know more.

Published Jun 19 2007, 06:57 PM by
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Comments

Ben Hayat

>>I think it's fair to say that VS2008 will have a huge impact on us as a company.<<

And I remember when DX as one of the first VCL third party companies who jumped and .Net, many people were criticizing Ray for it. Now we can see what a great vision he had!

..Ben

June 19, 2007 10:24 PM

Amtal

I am very sad to agree with you completely... :( Hoping for a bright future for delphi... :-(( from a Delphi Expert who LOVES LINQ and WCF.
June 20, 2007 5:21 AM

Alex Danvy [DX-Squad]

Just in case you needed a testimonial, I really expect DevExpress to put all his resources on VS 2005/2008 components to give me new (WPF) or even better (WinForms & ASP.net) tools to create applications. Borland had the best developers tools during years just like Altavista was the best search engine in his time. There's no doubt about that. But things change, my customers want me to support Google, not Altavista...

June 20, 2007 5:56 AM

Helge Boe

Well, the first thing I though of when I read:

"new support for UI elements such as Ribbon controls, theming, skinning, and other UI improvements"

was:

"they must have made a deal with DevExpress to buy the VCL side of the business".

Could make sense for both parties?

June 20, 2007 6:48 AM

Jan Derk

Like Helge, to me it seems like the only sensible thing for CodeGear to do would be to put DevExpress in charge of the Unicode VCL. It's about the only way I can see this going in the right direction and maintaining proper code quality. Delphi's actionbars and grids are pitiful compared what DevExpress provides. Looking at Delphi's actions for the last few years I guess that CodeGear prefers spending another 100 million for useless bloatware like Together. The fact that they keep waisting resources trying to fix a 1GB help viewer that is broken by design is pretty illustrative too. Jan Derk N.B. This blog website does not work in Firefox. I get the following error when trying to view this page: ==== Oops something went wrong! Either the site is offline or an unhandled error occurred. We apologize and have logged the error. Please try your request again or if you know who your site administrator is let them know too. ====
June 20, 2007 7:39 AM

Bruce

Julian, As always, thanks for the comments and the window into DevEx. I do all my DotNet development in Visual Studio, but I still do my Win32 development in Delphi, and I depend heavily on DevEx components. Given your negative impressions of CodeGear over the last year (which I'm not saying aren't justified), I worry sometimes that I'm going to open this blog one day to find an announcement that you are pulling the plug on Delphi development. I just hope that you give us plenty of warning if it ever comes to that.
June 20, 2007 10:12 AM

Bruce McGee

Hi Julian,

CodeGear is having a series of live chats to review and take questions on their road map.

First, they confirmed the plan is that C# support will be equivalent to VB.Net support in BDS 2006, which, I think, means no WinForms designer.  I prefer VCL.Net, but I'm still not wild about this decision.  I exchange code with other Visual Studio developers (I'm one, too), and this will make my life more difficult.

Second, I remember hearing that Highlander will only consume generics, which bothered me because it's one of the features I was really looking forward to.  However, in the chat, Nick said that the current plan is to get full generics support into Delphi for .Net, but Win32 support will still have to wait.  This makes me a little more optimistic.

Lastly, I agree that I'd like to see more frank discussion from CodeGear.  Give us the bad news straight up as soon as possible.  I think these road map chats are a good step and hope they continue to be as open.

June 20, 2007 10:35 AM

Quentin Correll

Bruce,...  I heard the same thing you did from Nick in Chat yesterday.  My reaction, overall, was that "I'm sure glad that I'm not a .NET developer in Delphi." <g>

  Q

June 20, 2007 2:29 PM

Martin Fu

I don't think DevExpress should abandon/pull-the-plug on it's development of Native VCL components.  As for VCL.Net, I'm not so sure though.

Native code development would not fade away in foreseeable future, and Delphi is a strong contender next to C++.  Just that if I'm DevExpress, I would architect the dot net component, and port the architecture to Delphi-Native-VCL.  And maintain a ratio of resources of VCL-Dotnet development as 2:8.

And it doesn't hurt if subscriptions to Delphi Component are split betwen native vs native+VCL.Net version.   I for one would resume the subscriptions to native VCL component if the price is lower a bit because of the split.

Thank you.

June 21, 2007 3:21 AM

RPW

DevExpress has been a great company and I think they have been loyal to Borland, almost to a fault.

I think DevExpress should spend more resources on .NET and let the VCL side slowly die off.

.NET, more specifically, VS, needs a GREAT Database Business Object Designer.

Spend the extra resources on this, and I'm sure you could corner the market.

I only live about 5 miles from you guys...maybe I drop in :)

June 21, 2007 4:23 AM

Rollie Claro

VCL, was'nt that the counter part of ActiveX?

    in my opinion invest on .NET 3. i was asking DX about the WPF thing coz its alarming that the competitors are releasing cool stuff. rest assured yours will be great.

  one thing, boost XPO on .NET 3, like the infamous workoffline and online i requested last year. not really a problem now coz i have my TReplicate.

keep it up!

June 24, 2007 9:49 AM

Eric Fortier

I'm extremely surprised to learn that CodeGear didn't had some kind of exchange with you guys prior to releasing the roadmap. Taking care of partners as successful as DevEx is something I think a company should take very seriously given the number of people using your products.

I was also surprised that the WinForms designer and C# was gone, even if I don't do .NET at all. That might drive a whole bunch of people to (finally) take the plunge and join the "Collective".

Yep, Tiburon is quite some time in the future, to say nothing of 64 bit. Personally Generics and 64 bit is what I was really looking forward. Guess I'll need some pretty strong binoculars ;)

Always nice to read your blog!

June 25, 2007 3:43 PM

David Intersimone "David I"

> Reading between the lines is not fun. After all, what's there is merely implied and not made explicit: it's just blank space with BackColor = clWhite. Seeing anything involves looking askance, or perhaps with prior expertise.

As a technology partner, Julian, you can give us a call anytime so that you don't have to "read between the lines", you can just ask us directly.  At the same time we should have held a briefing for technology partners in advance of the roadmap going public so that you had the chance to ask questions and give feedback to guide the roadmap.

In any case, the roadmap is just a point in time document.  It has already been updated and will be updated many more times as we move forward to respond to feedback and also make sure we deliver the products and technology support that our customers need.

For the native code world, Delphi is still the only modern, up to date product that supports Windows Vista.  For .NET we will also make sure that Delphi developers can leverage their investment in code and VCL to do development for that platform.

June 27, 2007 9:51 AM

Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)

A very well-written interesting viewpoint from Marco Cantu. Well worth reading: blog.marcocantu.com/.../delphi_is_vcl.html

He also notes that the new Highlander (The Next Generation, as it were) will support creating parametrized types and methods, and not just consuming them.

Cheers, Julian

June 29, 2007 1:49 AM

Gerhard Stoltz

Dear Julian

Most of the comments you made about CodeGear is old news as the Dooms Profits are on every street corner doing the same.

However, what I find surprising (as a 4 year old customer of every component) is the lack of effort on DevExpress part to address the issues that come up. You make comments about stuff that was already said in the field test beginning this year. This means you are serioulsy out of date as far as CodeGear is concerned as you rightly stated you read "between the line".

Now, I am a customer of yours, and is no fun you tell me stop all my 4 years source code and get another compiler. No compassion for us customers there!

Get you act together and sit down with CodeGear and solve this issue one way or the other. Nastiness like this will have a rub-off in business that is never forseen. Do not be to confident that Visual studio as the only product will pave the way. One just never know, CodeGear might not be the write-off you think in 5 years time.

Point is this, I am totally entrenced in using your technology and I see little effort from you or CodeGear to resolve this issue and tend to blame some on DevExpress being out of contact.

Make your customers happy and show you are willing to find a way for your loyal customers that did set you into business akk these years.

Hope this "stand-offish" attitude will change.

Your loyal customer

Gerhard Stoltz

July 26, 2007 6:20 AM

Serge BARTH

We developp 10 year's long in delphi. We never had problems with it, a remarquable product, we just make the right choice with component tier's product and coded well. We purchased devexpress suite this year and now it's over for delphi in the futur !! I'm agree with you Gerhard Stoltz. It's like we have no choice between C# or Java, .NET or ECLIPSE. No cobol, no C, no fortran, no ADA, ...

In the same way, everyone will need to talk in chineese in the next 10  years and leave away it's native language.

So why continue in Windows plateform, in this case I should move to LINUX. Microsoft kills borland or codegear, there's no reason that constructors don't kill Microsoft. I'm just thincking about, sorry ...

July 31, 2007 12:51 PM

David Taylor

I suspect a major factor in the demise of the WinForms designer is because Borland licensed the .Net design surface from Microsoft. Relying on Microsoft technologies can sometimes be like building your house on quicksand. Here is an interesting CodeGear post that shines a little light on the subject: blogs.codegear.com/.../2780.aspx

August 6, 2007 8:02 PM

Johan Visser

Dear Julian,

I must agree with you.

Borland/CodeGear screwed up with the latest versions of Delphi.

We are converting all of our applications from Delphi to Visual Studio (C#)

The best part of this is that we can use (almost) the same components from your company.

I should say, stop the development of Delphi components and swich completely to .NET components.

Regards

Johan Visser

August 28, 2007 4:35 AM

About Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)

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