I’ve been staggered at the response to my recent post calling for a “Community Edition” (and a “Standard Edition”) of Delphi.  Even more staggering though was that some people still don’t “get it”, thinking that a free or cut-price version of Delphi will somehow be the financial ruin of Embarcadero.They protest that Microsoft can only do this because they are such a large company with a monopoly that they can exploit.

So is this a luxury that Embarcadero simply cannot afford?  I think not and can think of any number of examples where companies in this industry and others use “Free” as a too to drive promotion and loyalty.

Coffee Shops

Where I work there is a coffee shop and a bakery.  They both offer good quality espresso coffee.  They both operate a loyalty scheme where for every 5 coffee’s I buy I get one free.

Incredible.  That’s giving away 16% of their potential revenue from coffee sales!  So clearly these must be huge conglomerate coffee shop chains enjoying a monopoly position.

No, of course not.  These are owner operated small businesses.  Very small businesses.

So how on earth can they stay in business?  The answer is of course because their margin allows it, but even so, why give up that profit?  Don’t they need that profit to finance the further development of their business?  Of course they do, but they also know that they can make more money out of me in other ways.  Because they know that every time I walk in their store is an opportunity to sell me something else, even if I’m only there to collect the free coffee that I “earned” I might buy something to go with.

In fact, I’m almost certain to, because I, like many people feel a sense of gratitude and indeed obligation when they receive something for free.  So they give me a reason to come back and they also go to great lengths to make me feel welcome whenever I do, so that rather than feeling “entitled” to my free coffee I somehow feel that I never-the-less owe them something in return.

In any business, the hardest part of a sale is getting the customer in front of your products, because if you don’t achieve that then you simply aren’t going to sell them anything.  The second hardest part is making them feel inclined to give them your money.  People don’t (generally) buy things from people they don’t like.

That’s why sales people try so hard to be your friend.  In some cases they try too hard and just annoy the hell out of you which of course works against them, but a good sales person will never make you feel like you’re begin sold to.

But Delphi isn’t a Cappacino!

Of course not.

Give me a free copy of Delphi and I’m not likely to come and buy a sticky bun from you (unless you are a very diverse sort of reseller).  I might however find myself needing a database modelling tool.  Or perhaps a C++ compiler that I need to use for things that a Community or Standard Edition isn’t going to be good enough for.

If I’ve gotten used to using tools from any other company that offers such things, how likely is it that I’m going to come knocking on Embarcadero’s door first?  Not very.

Loss leaders, freebies, deep-discounting… these are all highly effective techniques for selling everything from coffee to cars or even houses.  Yet some people think it’s not relevant or “deserved” in software?

So let’s look at some examples from the software world.

Exempli Gratia

How much did you pay to use Google today?

How much money did Google make today?

Anyone that thinks that “Free” doesn’t work really needs to square that circle before they go any further.  But, Google is admittedly HUGE so let’s look at some somewhat smaller examples (a further question for the reader: how did Google get to be so huge?).

NOTE: I am limiting myself to those products I have direct experience of.  I’m sure others have similar experiences to relate regarding other products.


WordPress

wordpress.org

I don’t know how profitable WordPress is for it’s founders or creators.  One must presume that at the very least they are covering their hosting costs which on it’s own is impressive given the amount of traffic that their hosted blogs carry.

This blog is itself running on the WordPress platform – my stats of course don’t contribute to those WordPress.com stats as my site is hosted by my ISP, not WordPress themselves, as I’m sure is the case for a very, very large number of WordPress bloggers.

So how does a product like WordPress make money?

Well, as well as being essentially entirely free, they do have premium services built on top of their free hosted offerings.

But nobody’s going to pay for those right?  Because we’re all ungrateful free-loaders, right?

Well, someone is paying for those services.  My guess is that some of those people will be people who had a very positive free experience with WordPress then found themselves wanting more, and feeling positively inclined toward WordPress were happy to upgrade to these paid for services.

Much as I imagine, for example, that someone who enjoys learning Delphi with a free version might then wish to upgrade to a reasonably priced, better equipped version (for this to work I still believe that an Edition between “FREE” and “PRO” has to exist otherwise the barrier to paid for entry will still be too high to convert very many free users to paying customers).

FogBugz

www.fogcreek.com/FogBugz

Again, I have no idea how profitable the FogBugz issue tracking/project management product is for FogCreek.  Again, one must believe that it’s making some money.  Products that don’t rarely make it much past version 2, and FogBugz has been around long enough to make it to Version 7 – so far.

And this is perhaps much closer to the Delphi example than WordPress.

FogBugz is primarily a commercial product offering, available either as an entirely hosted solution on a fixed cost per user monthly subscription basis, or as a purchased, self-hosted installation priced per user (with volume discounts).

I came across FogBugz when I was evaluating issue tracking systems with a view to identifying one suitable for our purposes at my place of work.  It immediately impressed me as a product, but more than that, the OnDemand hosted product is FREE for accounts with 1-2 users.

I didn’t need to look much further than that – for my own purposes, on my own time, this was perfect.  I signed up and within minutes had my own issue tracking system up and running.

But a system to cater for the situation at work had to meet more rigorous requirements.  It had to be able to integrate with a number of our existing systems and it had to be able to handle the projects and our working practices.  FogBugz could do all these things but did seem quite basic.

So my evaluation of other products continued.

Those other products were all, without exception, far more expensive than FogBugz.  In some cases they were undeniably far more functional too.  In some cases they too offered free versions for small numbers of users, however, in these cases the free versions were also functionally limited, in some cases very much so, and the costs once you crossed that “free user” threshold were astronomical.

But during the course of my evaluation of these other products I was also of course starting to use FogBugz more and more myself and was more and more impressed.  Every day it seemed I was excitedly sharing what I’d found it could do with my colleagues.

The long story short (I know – too late) is that we are now going ahead and purchasing a number of licenses for a self hosted installation of FogBugz for our site.

Giving away one free license to their product (and I might add, absorbing the cost of hosting the account using that license) has directly led to the sale of a number of licenses for FogCreek, not to mention publicity in my telling everyone who will listen just what a great product it is.

Did I mention yet what a great product it is?

A Good Idea Gone Wrong

Not all free editions of otherwise commercial software are good examples.  I came across one today in fact.

LiquidXML Technologies offer a Community Edition of their XML Studio product.  Despite being a highly impressive and functional piece of software, this suffers from two significant problems however.

1. The free version is too limited.  It’s virtually unusable as anything other than a fancy XML editor.  Activating the “Community Edition” actually disables very basic features that would otherwise be available during a 30-day trial period!

2. The cost of the cheapest paid-for version of the product is far too high.  Certainly the product is very pretty and very capable, but there are cheaper tools that are almost as good – in some cases entirely free tools.

This product proves that “FREE” is not a guaranteed sales tool.

I never said it was easy.  But it doesn’t have to be difficult, and it certainly is not impossible.

The Ubiquitous : “Miscellaneous”

Commercial software made available in a free edition is a sales technique that can be found in just about every corner of IT, and is perhaps most evident in the “serious” tools space where we find the likes of VM Ware and Perforce.  Even Oracle for crying out loud!

I’ve not compiled a hugely extensive list of examples, I admit.  But then I’ve not deliberately sought to find these examples.  They are ones that I have had direct, incidental experience of in recent months or years.

In fact, when I think back much further than that, I think it’s fair to say that “free” software is in fact a relatively new phenomenon, and one that has proven very successful for those that have done it right.

I hate to say it, but now that the initial excitement has worn off, Embarcadero are starting look like a bit of a dinosaur compared to the other players in the market.

I think it would be interesting to compile a list of what we think of as successful software products that are available in free editions.  By which I mean free and freely usable, i.e. without any onerous restrictions that essentially renders them as little more than trial editions that aren’t practically usable for their intended purpose and which are unlikely to give a positive user experience that might tempt someone to purchase the paid-for version.

Some people have asked “Why should we get a free/cheap version of Delphi?” or suggested that Embarcadero can’t afford it.

I suggest that it’s actually the other way around.

We should ask “Why shouldn’t we have a free/cheap version of Delphi available?” and that Embarcadero simply cannot afford not to.

Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls…

By way of footnote, I found it interesting that another blog recently used a part of this quote – the subject of the post was also discussing the need for a free/cheap edition of Delphi.  It struck a particular chord with me.

This very famous quote comes from a poem by John Donne, one time rector of a church in a small village in Bedfordshire in the UK called “Blunham”.  There are two pubs in that village (at one time there were 8!).  If you are ever in the area do stop by The Salutation and say hi to the current landlady (Vicky) and the regulars.

Tell them “Bill” sent you – my wife and I took a career break and ran that pub for nearly two years before we emigrated to New Zealand where we resumed our careers in IT and accounting respectively.

What’s the point?

Well, as is common practice in the pub trade in the UK, I would regularly invite a customer to “Have this one on me”.  It cost me the profit on a pint, but the customer would more often than not return the favour, except of course that they would also join me, repaying my lost profit on one pint with profit on two (or possibly more if others joined the round).

Mostly that practice is about fostering a sense of community and friendship, not generating cold, hard revenue – but the two go hand-in-hand more often than you might think.

53 thoughts on “The Economics of “Free”

  1. A lot of people do understand that (among other things) free and/or inexpensive SKUs can help expand the user base (and good will), including people inside Embarcadero. They just need enough incentive to act on it.

    Of course, they will have to overcome the unmet expectations from inconsistent availability of standard/personal editions in the past and the promising but ultimately botched relaunch of the Turbo brand. Much like ProjectX is going to have to live down Borland’s history with Kylix.

  2. Well put! I really hope someone from Embarcadero is reading these articles of yours, Joylon. I’ve said it before, getting Delphi into more people’s hands is the #1 most important, most urgent need they have. More than 64-bit support, more than cross-platform support or any other cool feature, they need to remain relevant or they’ll lose everything.

  3. For me, the loyalty scheme also works another way. When choosing between vendors, I am more predisposed to buy from the one that is giving me “credit” toward my free item.

  4. Everything is fine, but
    – Delphi is a developer’s tool. Number of developers is very small. Even if EMBT says that there are 3 million of Delphi users, most of them do not plan to upgrade.
    – upgrade cycle of Delphi is 1.5-2 years. I mean, if developer paid for some version of Delphi, he will not upgrade until the project is finished.
    – upgrade price for the Professional is near $400. Is it high price to pay once per 1.5-2 years?

    Think that all this “give me Delphi for free” comes from greedy developers, that already have profit using illegal copies of Delphi, but still blaming Borland/Codegear/EMBT like this:
    “Delphi have bugs, fix them and then I will pay”.
    And this happens for years.

    So, from my POV – no regret for that users, at all. Let them move to free Visual Studio, EMBT or Delphi will not loose anything.

  5. “In fact, when I think back much further than that, I think it’s fair to say that “free” software is in fact a relatively new phenomenon”

    Actually, that’s not true. I got most of the software for my first few computers for free. Yes, of course, these were “pirated” copies and not “quite” legal. But: I didn’t have much money back then and would never have bought all that stuff. I ended up picking up Borland Pascal and Delphi for development tools because I used Turbo Pascal several years for “free”. I bought OS/2 Warp 3.0 and 4.0 because I got version 2.0 for “free” and liked it very much, I would never have bought it otherwise because everybody was using Windows.

    Nowadays I still use free stuff, lots of open source software for Linux and Windows. There it is a bit different: Many of these free offerings are just good enough, so I don’t look any further and don’t buy any commercial software. So, there is the downside: Free stuff not always increases sales. There must be some additional value for me. E.g. I tried to use Lazarus one and again and never stuck with it, just because Delphi is so much better. The day Delphi falls behind Lazarus, Embarcadero will most likely lose a customer.

  6. none of your examples hold up, unfortunately:

    – your coffee isn’t free. it’s discounted as you need to buy 5 to get the sixth one free. i doubt your coffee store wluld appreciate me walking in and asking for my “free” coffee, first (i’ll buy 5 later, honestly!)

    – google is not free, it is ad supported. to me (and many others) that’s worse that costing money, actually. i rather *pay* for a good service/product, than be charged by having to see ads.

    and so on.

    it boils down to that it’s Embarcadero’s business decision whether they want to shop a free version or not, of course, but i can fully understand why they don’t want to. i don’t see the business case myself. it’s pretty clear that (esp with Delphi’s current place in the grand theme of things), a free edition would cut into exiting revenue form people who currently do buy their Delphi, much more than it would add new developers to the user base.

    if Delphi (even a limited subset of the product) is given away, there’ll be a percentage X of current users that will find the subset “good enough” and stop upgrading. obviously. i would believe that that that number would be significant higher than the amount of new people that would come to Delphi because of the free version *AND* would eventually decide to upgrade to a paid one. For two reasons: (a) demand for Delphi isn’t all that high, among those who are not already using it anyways and (b) once you get used to something being free, there’s a significant amount of inertia keeping you from deciding to pay for it, later on.

    this just imho, of course.

  7. @Bee – nobody pays me for the time I spend on my blog. Nobody paid me a cent for the multicast events implementation – or any other code – that I gave away for free and without obligation on this site in the past 12 months. Nobody pays me for the assistance and advice that I give on stackoverflow.

    I am also working on some bigger code contributions that I intend giving away.

    I couldn’t do any of these things FOR THE DELPHI COMMUNITY if I can’t afford a copy of Delphi, because all of these things I do in my own time and out of my own goodwill.

    The likes of yourself, LDS and Embarcadero don’t help anyone by sticking two fingers up at people like me.

    @LDS: You still don’t get it. It really beggars belief that you can be so dense to believe that my concern is for myself. I *want* to spend money with Embarcadero. I simply cannot justify spending the amount of money required to stay current on Delphi.

    If I were thinking the way you think I am, then I would laughing at Embarcadero and, yes, using something else. But I’m not. I’m trying to think of ways to keep Delphi thriving, because I *like* Delphi, and I want to be able to continue earning a living by doing Delphi.

    REMEMBER: I don’t earn my living on this blog or stackoverflow or writing code that I give away for free. I earn a living by holding down a job with an employer who uses Delphi. An employer that is paying for multiple Enterprise licenses.

    Giving away free software or sacrificing margin by selling a new edition cheaper, to people WHO WOULD OTHERWISE NOT BE SPENDING ANY MONEY WITH EMBARCADERO ANYWAY, helps ensure that those Enterprise customers retain *their* confidence in Delphi.

    So yes, I’m suggesting a free Community Edition – for the good of the broader Delphi community as a whole (you did see those other comments from people, like myself, who use Pro or even Enterprise licenses that are paid for by our employers – employers who continue to invest in Delphi only for as long as they feel there is a vibrant and healthy community?). You squander the community and I guarantee that Delphi will quietly fade away, and in this day and age I think you will be surprised at how quickly that might happen.

    Embarcadero risk killing their goose. (If you don’t have a clue what that means I suggest to read the “Goose That Laid the Golden Egg”).

    But, as I was saying…. yes I’m suggesting a Community Edition would be a good idea. But I’m ALSO suggesting that a Standard Edition be provided.

    One that isn’t as functional as Professional Edition and which costs less. But which DOES COST SOMETHING.

    Or are you now going to tell me that “paying less and getting less” is also greedy?

    @Thomas: Yes, OK – but of course I meant “free” as a legitimate part of doing business, not “free” as in stolen. 🙂

  8. Just a question: how much software do *you* give away for free?

    You can’t take a business model that works say for Google and say it would work for Embarcadero too. If business world was so easy everybody would be big and rich.
    It’s much easier to give away an “end user” product for free, limiting its user than a “meta” product like an IDE/compiler that can be used to make other software. If FogBugz limits you to two users that’s all. Can you resell that service? Can you add more functionalities on your own? Can you make money out of it? Or Google?
    But a “free” version of Delphi could instead be used for larger (and lucrative) projects as well by several developers, unless it is heavily limited. You can give away a coffe for free, but what if you give away a coffee machine?

    It’s you that “can’t get it”. You look at it from your single small user point of view. The less you pay your suppliers, the more you earn – and you don’t care about anything else.

    PS: Oracle 10g Express is like Delphi Turbo. Old, buggy and unsupported. And 11g was never released in an Express edition. Why? You can still download Oracle software for free – but read the license. Would you accept such a license for your free Delphi?

    1. I’ve answered that question already.

      If I added up the value of my time that I have spent on this blog and other forums and on the software that I have given away (and intend giving away), in simple terms of my normal salaried hourly rate in my employment, I think you would be staggered.

      Without giving details that would divulge my salary, I *conservatively* estimate that in a 12 month period I contribute NZ$26,000 of my time.

      Oh, and you’d better add another NZ$200 – NZ$300 pa for the hosting and traffic costs for this site.

      In case you were wondering, Google Ads earned me not quite US$20 in the same period, which of course I haven’t even seen yet because a payment isn’t triggered until total earnings hit US$100, which at this rate will be sometime in 2012.

      And yes, since you asked, I *could* earn money with FogBugz. Quite apart from the fact that I *might* be a commercial software developer where an issue tracking system with customer facing email services, discussion forums and wikis would add a great deal of value to my potential product offering and save me a great deal of money and time.

      But even as a “community developer” simply looking for a way to manage what amounts to a “to do” list, I could make money with FogBugz.

      It has a rich and extensive plug-ins API as well as REST services. I could develop plug-ins and extensions using those APIs which I could then sell to other FogBugz users. Without an account and without a license I would have no way of testing.

      As it is, developing plug-ins isn’t easily possible with the hosted account, obviously (FogCreek have to validate and certify the plu-in before they will allow it onto the hosted services, naturally, making debugging and testing impossible).

      But that’s why FogCreek have offered to sell me a Plug-In Developer pack – a self hosted installation to be used only for plug-in development for just US$20 – a discount of nearly US$400.

      Why would they do such a thing? Surely they should just insist that I pay full price.

      Why pander to my greed by giving me such a great deal and dare I say *incentive*.

      I think it’s because they appreciate that by fostering a community around their product they improve their overall product offering TO the community and there-by increase sales for their product.

      I should point out that FogCreek would make no money directly from any plug-in that I may write, and aiui once certified and validated they will host it on their servers for free.

      In the future they hope to have a “plug-in store” where they might take a %age of each sale of any plug-in, but they don’t currently, and even if they did I would still be free to sell my plugin – or give it away – by any other means that I chose.

      But you persist in thinking that if I get a cheaper copy of Delphi that I somehow make more money for myself. Let me say this one more time for you. Slowly and clearly :

      I. Make. No. Money. With. The. Delphi. License. That. I. Pay. For. Out. Of. My. Own. Pocket.

      That’s NZ$0, which at current exchange rates is the equivalent of US$0 or 0 EUR or 0 GBP.

      Nothing is nothing in any currency.

      Now ask yourself what does the Delphi community get out of my being current in Delphi and willing and able to contribute to that community?

      I’m a modest chap but even I would humbly suggest that there is *some* value in having me – and the likes of me around.

      Just out of interest, what’s YOUR stackoverflow reputation score?

  9. @marc: Yes, I know google is paid for by ads, but it’s not paid for by the people using google.

    TANSTAAFL – (Their Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch)

    But that example *does* extend to a Community and Standard Edition of Delphi.

    1. There is very little cost in producing those things, compared to the cost of having already produced Profession+Enterprise+Architect Editions.

    The number of people for whom a Community or Standard Edition would be a viable alternative to Enterprise or Architect is going to approach zero, but yes, some sales may be taken away from Professional.

    But equally NOT having the Standard Edition denies those who would like to spend SOME money on a Delphi that isn’t quite as feature overladen as Professional, but can’t afford or justify the expense of Professional are left unable to spend ANY money.

    And, as I point out to “LDS”.. some of those Enterprise/Architect customers only remain customers for as long as they see a healthy Delphi community around them.

    So you *could* argue that it’s the Enterprise and Architect customers that are in essence paying for the Community/Standard editions, but I think they will pay for themselves by helping to retain (and increase) customers at the higher end.

    And yes, the coffee is only “discounted” not “free” if you do a simple average of the cost of each cup. But that’s not how the model works. The model has to be seen differently from each side of the transaction.

    To the customer it is “free” – they aren’t paying for it.

    To the store it’s discounted, but in fact in the case of the majority of customers it’s not even that because the “loss” they make on those free coffee’s is paid for by the additional items that those customers buy that they otherwise wouldn’t.

    AND by other customers coming to them because of the “good word” that get’s spread by the happy customer who perceives a “free” coffee (this does of course assume that the other goods and the service in the store are also up to scratch. Freebies cannot compensate for poor quality).

    The percentage profit on each cup of coffee is reduced.

    But anyone in business will tell you, you can’t bank a percentage. You bank $$’s.

    Losing %age points on the margins for each Delphi sale is irrelevant. What matters is the total $ revenue and profit on those sales.

    Ok, it’s not as simple as “pile em high and sell em cheap” in this case, but the principle is essentially the same – increase revenue by reducing margin and increasing volume.

    If Embarcadero focus on chasing the big ticket customers then they may (read: will) find that the number of customers left will drop, and the ticket has to keep getting bigger and bigger and eventually they won’t be left with enough customers to keep going.

    Borland tried that, remember… and look what happened to them.

  10. moreover – the IDE could be free, if EMBT itself was selling lot of components, or having income from the component builders.
    Instead, companies that produces components get’s Delphi for free (!!!) as a technology partners, and doesn’t pay any “royalty” to EMBT.
    I know that legal users of Delphi usually pays same price or more for the components they use. It’s a business also, but, if there will be free Delphi, component builders will not give their products for free or pay to EMBT.

  11. returning to the coffee 🙂
    I often visit Cappuchino Express network in Moscow. They have good coffee, and so on.
    Last year I won “visitor card” giving me 10% discount. But, I’m still giving them +10% tips. I’ts crisis, so I could not pay any tips, having that 10% discount, but I know, that if I will not pay tips, they will have less income, and it will be harder for them to survive.
    Maybe I’m too selfish, thinking that my tips can help them to survive, but why not? At least, these tips will help to survive at least one waiter 🙂

  12. “Just out of interest, what’s YOUR stackoverflow reputation score?” Feel free to ask Marco Cantù what is my reputation on his Delphi&Dintorni
    newsgroup. I don’t use StackOverflow a lot. I have other hobbies beyond programming.

    But how many *complete*, *working*, *useful* applications or libraries do you give away for free? Not code snippets, not answer to questions.

    “I could develop plug-ins and extensions”. Which of course don’t work if you don’t have the product. Which in turn is not given to you unless you pay for it or get the limited version which is useful for very small development shops only.
    Again you’re applying a different business model (hosted web applications) to an IDE/compiler.
    Would you accept a free Delphi compiling application that could run only on the same machine that compiled them, or better, just inside the IDE? Or a remote Delphi?
    You could still develop new components and controls, and learn to use Delphi as much as you can. But I guess many wouldn’t accept it. They want a fully functional. powerful IDE and compiler. For free.

  13. “Yes, I know google is paid for by ads, but it’s not paid for by the people using google.”

    oh, but it is.when you use google, you PAY by being exposed to the ads. you may not be paying *money*, but you are paying.

    matter of fact, as i said, if i am given the choice between paying money for a good service/product vs. being subjected to ads, i will *gladly* pay money, as i find ads appalling.

    “There is very little cost in producing those things, compared to the cost of having already produced Profession+Enterprise+Architect Editions.”

    but it does. it costs lost sales for the paid-for versions. giving a community edition away for free would only be “no cost” to Embarcadero, if EVERY single user of it would (a) be a new user and (b) not have paid anyways. and in that case, what does Embarcadero gain? certainly not willing future customers

    “The number of people for whom a Community or Standard Edition would be a viable alternative to Enterprise or Architect is going to approach zero”

    i’d strongly doubt that. matter of fact, i’d predict 90% of the user base for such a free edition would be existing Dlephi users (ie by definition, paying customers that are “lost”)

    “To the customer it is “free” – they aren’t paying for it.”

    but they paid for the previous 5 coffees. and they wuill need to pay for the 7th. neither does a new customer just get away with a free coffee, nor will an existing (and future returning) customer get away with not paying again (if he wants to keep drinking their coffee). neither is the case for the Delphi model you are comparing this to. its a flawed analogy.

    “AND by other customers coming to them because of the “good word” that get’s spread by the happy customer who perceives a “free” coffee”

    yes, but lets face it: good word about free stuff attracts mainly people who want the same free stuff. if i go tell you “hey, i got Delphi for free, check it out” your reply will nit be “that’s awesome, i’m gonna fgo and BUY something from them right now”.

  14. If nothing else, Emabradero needs to concentrate FREE offerings to the academic community. Pascal has always been a good teaching language, but colleges today are hooked on horrible (IMHO) Java, or some other such construct. If you reach a BS CS to program in Java, and they need to program something, what will they reach for? Ahhh… But if you teach them to use Object Pascal, a much better and easier (IMHO) language, they will be in front of their boss’s desk asking for Software Assurance.

    Question: What is the value of having sales people (unwittingly) embedded within a company? It might be hard to quantify, but it’s certainly compelling!

  15. You’re asking the Embarcadero sales team to get creative in ways to reach new customers. Not sure why this is so controversial.

    I’ve seen ads in a couple of the free PDF viewers I use. No biggy. Ads in a community Delphi makes sense. Ads are, of course, just one way to skin this cat. You have plenty of other suggestions.

  16. Why can’t we just have a fully functional version of Delphi that the resulting exe only works while the ide is running. Then do a media blitz everwhere so people can try it for as long as they want. Trial periods are just too short for anyone to really learn a software. Distribute this version to all schools including C++ and make these products the defacto standard for learning computer languages. I know if I was a student and had to learn a computer language I would go for the free version to do my homework. This way you get everyone hooked on it.

  17. I completely agree with you. Actually, the number one example I had in my mind was Adobe giving away their Reader for free, with which people could read but not write PDFs. People still have to pay for Adobe Acrobat. The PDF format spread very quickly and is now a “standard” format. In my opinion, their move was very smart and very successful.

  18. To expand upon earlier sceptical thoughts about two of your analogies…

    – The coffee example is completely beside the point, because as Marc said, this is an incentive for *existing* paying customers to try to become *very regular* paying customers. I suppose a Delphi analogy would be, buy five upgrades in five years, and get the sixth free. But, hang on, don’t Embarcadero already have something along those lines? Indeed they do, namely SA, which is arguably an even ‘better’ deal than the coffee one.

    – That the end consumer gets most Google services for ‘free’ is also neither here nor there, since Google don’t give stuff away for free in the hope that some of the freeloaders will come to buy Google stuff later – rather, it’s with the aim of obtaining and keeping up a near-monopolist reach. Why is this so important? Because, it is this reach that makes Google attractive for the people it *does* make its money from, namely advertisers. In the Delphi analogy you are trying to draw, in contrast, the freeloaders and potential future customers are one and the same group of people.

    1. @everyone focussing on the mechanics of the “free” examples provided….

      It is not intended that coffee shop loyalty cards or google advertising financed services be considered as the template for a mechanism to finance a Free/Chepa edition of Delphi.

      The examples demonstrate the principle that “free” does not have to mean “going out of business” for the provider of that free thing (where “free” is the cost to the user, not zero-cost to the provider for any one individual user), and that it can mean the EXACT opposite. A way of building and driving your business.

  19. Same here. I’ve got a personal copy of Delphi Professional that I’m making nothing from. I bought it because I can afford it, and I’ve got SA because I believe in the direction Embarcadero’s taking the Object Pascal language and the Delphi IDE. They’ve got a (mostly) satisfied return customer here, and if Delphi 2011 doesn’t completely suck, I’ll probably renew my SA subscription when it comes out.

    I’m a relative newcomer to “the Delphi community”, which I was largely ignorant of until I got a job last year working with Jim McKeeth and he encouraged me to get involved, but in this last year I’ve given two presentations at Delphi conferences and spent enough time answering questions on StackOverflow to become the third-highest ranked person in the Delphi tag. I didn’t receive a penny for any of it.

    If a free edition was around, I wouldn’t use it anyway. I like the Delphi Pro feature set. But it would mean, among other things, that I wouldn’t have had to get a friend with minimal income set up on Lazarus a few weeks ago.

    I’ll concede LDS and Marc’s point that this will decrease revenue. It almost certainly will decrease Delphi revenue, in the immediate term. For the first few years, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Delphi revenues go down a little. But the immediate term is irrelevant.

    I’ll repeat that. The immediate term is irrelevant. It’s not like Embarcadero is just barely keeping its head above water. What matters is 10 years from now, and there are two possible outcomes.

    1. They keep Delphi priced high enough that only corporate customers and individuals like myself on nice, comfortable programmers’ salaries can afford it. No hobbyists buy Delphi because there’s no Delphi they can buy. No schools teach Delphi because they’re facing budget crunches and they can already get free alternatives. No new blood gets pumped into the community. Because there are no programmers learning Delphi, no software companies start new Delphi projects. The language slowly dies, and 10 years from now we’re all speaking “curly brace.”

    2. Embarcadero produces a free edition and distribute it to anyone who’s interested. They launch an aggressive campaign to get Delphi taught in universities, high schools and even middle schools. New programmers learn there’s a way to write code that works better than the C family. 10 years from now, new projects are being started in Delphi because it’s a better language than the alternatives and there are coders out there with the skillset to develop in it. More companies buy multi-user Delphi licenses and the language flourishes.

    Can anyone think of another realistic ten-year scenario?

  20. @marc: “Free” can mean different things when it comes to how the provider chooses to finance the and underwrite the costs of providing that “free” thing to the person that perceives it as free.

    Simply because the mechanism that one such provider users doesn’t apply precisely and accurately to another doesn’t mean that the principle doesn’t apply.

    Yes, google is paid for by ads. Yes the user “pays” for the free service by “putting up with the ads”.

    In the case of a Delphi Community Edition, the user “pays” by having to put up with some limitation in the product as compared to the paid for version. The service is “paid FOR” by increasing revenues from the Standard and other higher editions that occurs as (some) users of the Community Edition progress on to those paid for editions and by the retention and expansion of the commercial user base on the strength of the presence of a healthy community.

  21. @lds: I was going to say “none, that’s not primarily what I do”, but that would be wrong.

    I wrote a file differencing/comparison engine. It’s pretty innovative as it is token based, not simple text based, so it can determine that a line of code hasn’t changed if all that has happened to it is that it’s been reformatted and split over multiple lines (or reduced from multiple lines to fewer).

    I’ve given that software away to a number of people. I haven’t made it generally available simply because it hasn’t been “polished”.

    The application itself was little more than a test harness for the underlying technology that I had developed. It works as a comparison tool, but needs to be “prepped” for public consumption.

    But I have also just started on another project which will – if I ever complete it – result in a complete application. Indeed, a suite of applications, and yes I fully intend there to be a fully functional free version as well as paid for versions.

    I’m motivated to complete it because I have already registered the domain names that I will use to promote it (and host the web app component that it will involve).

  22. IMHO it’s naive to believe schools and universities will jump on Delphi as soon as it gets free and forget Java and .NET. There are free C/C++ compilers, but they teach Java and .NET anyway. Why? Because they are fashionable today. Because academics likes their paradigms. Because that’s the workforce companies want.
    Languages “encapsulating” the programmer – no “dangerous” pointers around. Languages for the web. Languages the big names want to sell.
    Maybe in Russia could be different, but not in US or Europe, I am afraid. Turbo Pascal was teached in a lot of school, but it was Visual Basic to take the stage. And it happened before Pascal become old fashion, and against a language that was already old fashion. But it brought RAD first, and was easy to learn and use.
    I do not believe Delphi could become a fashionable language again – it could live in the same “niche” were C/C++ is living. People do not use C/C++ because there’s free compilers. They choose to learn and use it because they know that’s the most powerful tool. Because of its power appeal. And although finding a job as a C/C++ programmer is much harder, it could be much more interesting, and well paid.
    And IMHO that’s where Delphi has to look for new users. But it has to return to be appealing – being free would just be a very small appeal, if power is missing, there’s lot of free tools just few programmers use. And cutting revenues it’s not the best way to add more power.

  23. There might be two reasons why Embarcadero does not provie a community edition. They tried that with turbo explorers and result should be like that;
    1. There had not been upgrades from explorer to professional as much as they expected.
    2. There might happened a decrase of upgrades because of the turbo explorers.

    Otherwise it is not understandable for me.

  24. @LDS:

    >IMHO it’s naive to believe schools and universities will jump on Delphi as
    >soon as it gets free and forget Java and .NET.

    Of course not. That’s part of the reason I specified a 10-year timeframe.

    >There are free C/C++ compilers, but they teach Java and .NET anyway.
    >Why? Because they are fashionable today. Because academics likes their
    >paradigms. Because that’s the workforce companies want.

    You say that as if there’s no such thing as VS Express, or the howevermany free Java compilers there are out there.

    >I do not believe Delphi could become a fashionable language again – it
    >could live in the same “niche” were C/C++ is living. People … choose to
    >learn and use it because they know that’s the most powerful tool. Because
    >of its power appeal.

    …and those who don’t, use something else because other languages are easier to use and don’t subject you to all the weird C/C++ gotchas. The difference is that Delphi offers both. It compiles to fast, powerful, non-bloated native code, and it’s easy to write, read and understand. (Ever heard of the International Obfuscated Pascal contest? Nope, me neither.) What it doesn’t have is a high profile. When new coders start to see that you don’t have to sacrifice ease of use for performance, it’ll be a no-brainer.

  25. I’ve been a Delphi developer for over 10 years and have watched jobs advertising for Delphi developers drop and drop and drop. I guess one of the reason for the decline is that there is a perception – and I say “perception” – that Delphi is a dying language. Of course we know that this is not true since the “Delphi is dying” line has been around since Delphi 4 came out and currently were are now up to Delphi 2010 which I still believe is technically one of the best development tools for Windows out there.

    Unfortunately with Borland dropping the bundle, Delphi has suffered and its popularity has fallen and has given other platforms like .NET a chance to flourish. This has led to the demise of publications like The Delphi Magazine and Delphizine which further sends that message to developers/corporates/development shops that maybe Delphi is not a viable platform for future development.

    Without going into the “who came first? the chicken or the egg argument”, my observation is that Delphi developers were now looking at doing .Net development because there are less opportunities doing Delphi as there is in doing .Net. Component builders are now branching into .Net to the point that .Net have become their main product over their Delphi set of components. Corporates are moving away from using Delphi because there is a lack of Delphi developers around. Thus we have the vicious circle feeding upon itself fulfilling the demise of Delphi.

    I find a lot of Delphi jobs are now being advertised as Delphi development with the view to moving applications to C#. The feeling is that it is too hard to maintain a Delphi app when there is such a short supply of Delphi developers out there. The risk is too high to be left with an app that can’t be supported in the future whether it is due to lack of the tool or the lack of developers for that tool.

    This is why Joylon and Mason’s comments make so much sense to me. To me, the focus is not about trying to scam a free copy of Delphi from EMBT. It’s about trying to find a way to build a groundswell of support and confidence back in Delphi. The Delphi community used to be a thriving group for innovation and groundbreaking ideas in development. That mantle has been taken over by .Net – just look at all the podcasts, blogs and open source projects that are devoted it – that used to be Delphi.

    “1. They keep Delphi priced high enough that only corporate customers and individuals like myself on nice, comfortable programmers’ salaries can afford it. No hobbyists buy Delphi because there’s no Delphi they can buy. No schools teach Delphi because they’re facing budget crunches and they can already get free alternatives. No new blood gets pumped into the community. Because there are no programmers learning Delphi, no software companies start new Delphi projects. The language slowly dies, and 10 years from now we’re all speaking “curly brace.””

    Mason’s comment above is exactly the environment we are in now. EMBT has definitely improved Delphi’s outlook. They have finally built a solid version of Delphi and the infrastructure to keep it there. EMBT is also getting the confidence of the existing developers and corporates back again but now they need to assist in the rebuilding of that community.

    EMBT needs to understand that corporates don’t use Delphi because it’s the best development tool out there. They use it because it is a tool that can do the job but more importantly that there is also has the resources to support it. That is, that there are plenty of Delphi developers available.

    Don’t forget it is usually the developer who suggests to the corporate that Delphi should be the development tool. Also it is the developer who creates and maintains the blogs, the podcasts, the websites and the books for Delphi. The more Delphi developers active on the web will only enhance its popularity. But that wont happen if the access to Delphi is only to those who can fork out for at least the Professional edition or those corporate developers who uses Delphi paid by their company.

    It’s not easy to decide what features to include or exclude in a Community Edition or even in a Standard Edition because you will canabalise your Professional Edition sales. But also it may fail if you don’t have enough decent features to entice developers to use the Community/Standard Editions. I guess it’s up to the marketing types at EMBT to get the right balance to hook in the new developers and also enough to entice them to pay the higher fee for the “Standard” or “Professional” features. At the end of the day, by just getting them through the door will be the first steps in halting the vicious circle of death and maybe envigorating the new cycle of growth for Delphi.

  26. Hear hear JS, but for most of the comments: *sigh*

    1) There are already cracked versions of Delphi available on the net. Arguing about the possible implications of the availability of a “free” Delphi is pointless, because it is already available illegally. This is a non-discussion point! What company would use a non-commercial licence for profit, that would not *currently* use a cracked version? Both are illegal.

    2) The call for a Delphi *licence* that specifically allows only non-commercial use is the one that makes most sense to me. Not a trimmed-down Delphi, not a IDE-limited, or time-limited edition, not feature-limited in any way at all. See point (1). Just make it the *same* software, with a different licence. This is easier for everyone, including, and especially Embarcadero. Who wants the admin headache of dealing with multiple release configurations?

    3) Dual-licencing has been done before, with Qt and MySQL. AFAIK, licence violation has not been mentioned as a major loss of revenue for either (and see Point (1)). This establishes an historical precedent of the dual-licencing idea. Both Qt and MySQL have been popular despite this dual licensing strategy. An argument could probably be made that they were as popular as they were *because* of the dual-licensing. This (dated) article is rather interesting, with respect to Trolltech and dual-licencing:

    http://www.linux.com/archive/feature/48632

    4) The call for a non-commercial licence is not for commercial customers to get something for free money; rather, the intention is to dramatically expand the community of Delphi users. This benefits everyone! More blogging, more components, more articles, more books, more users, more testing, and so on. This is my own selfish reason for wanting a not-for-profit licence available, NOT because I want a free version. See point (1). A vibrant community matters.

    5) The actual dollars and cents cost of a Delphi licence is a tiny fraction of the operating costs of most companies. This is why there is little reason to expect that companies will try to avoid it; this is more so if the companies wish to hire talent, because nobody likes cheaters. The primary goal of a NC licence is massive distribution, NOT making it easier for companies to afford Delphi (and see Point (1) again). It may be that some companies, especially from poorer countries, violate licence terms and justify their crime by their circumstances; but this would be happening now anyway, again see Point (1).

    6) A non-commercial licensed version would put the pirates out of business. That’s not a big point, but it is a satisfying one 🙂

  27. @Jolyon,
    I would like to narrate my experience on Delphi at Work.

    I have never purchased Delphi for personal user and don’t intent to purchase it. I still use Delphi 6 Personal Edition at home.

    The first question everyone will ask is why? Because I do not profit from developing something at home. I generally use it for installing new VCLs and testing them out before I install them at work.

    I use Delhi 2006 only at work. My company is not ready to shell out more $$ for newer version.

    When I tried to convince my boss to upgrade to newer version of Delphi 2009 as it now has Unicode support I was bluntly told what is so great about it. VS 2005 has that support since ages. So if we have any projects that require Unicode we will build them in C#, and we have a larger team of C# developers compared to Delphi (which is me only).

  28. kdv already said what I would like to see from Codegear: A product cycle of more than one year – let’s repeat the wish 1,5-2 years.

    I don’t need new features inside the IDE just to pay again for a bug fixed successor.
    Many of us already have probably one or more IDE plugins or tools which enhance the IDE or support your daily job while programming: GExperts, CNPack, Modelmaker and more.

    You may now throw in we got language enhancements, too! You are correct, but did you take into account how long it took for CG until generics have been fixed? How many updates did it take and to be honest the last bugs were finally fixed in D010 and not in D2009!

    To sum up, I would like to see bug fixes for more than one year after the initial release.
    I would even claim that you even didn’t get bug fixes for one year in the past: The last update for D2009 was release in May, if I remember correctly, which means we got fixes for just half a year only, after the initial release of D2009 in the year 2008!

    cu,
    Michael

  29. I just read Joe White’s blog. His experience mirrors mine almost exactly.

    My company also moved to .NET/C# many years ago.

    I am also reduced to keeping my Delphi interest alive on a hobbyist/nostalgia level.

    So I also need some kind of Delphi Standard/Basic version that I can reasonably afford with my pocket money.

    And I’d like to point out that I am in a position to argue for Delphi in our department should I feel it has caught up with VS/C# – something I cannot seriously evaluate if I do not have the latest versions.

  30. @Mason:
    “You say that as if there’s no such thing as VS Express, or the howevermany free Java compilers there are out there.”
    That’s not the main reason. There are C/C++ free compilers and IDEs too, VS, OpenWatcom, GCC, but C/C++ are no longer taught ast the “main” language. Why? There are free Assembler, Fortran and ADA compilers – how many learn assembly, Fortran or ADA today? Why don’t they?

    Ok, if you like to learn C/C++ you have free tools available, while if you want to learn Delphi there aren’t, but a free Delphi won’t change what languages are actually taught at schools – maybe in some countries it could happen, but not in most of the Western world, I guess.

    And this lead to another question: where most revenues come from? Where most paying users are? Maybe in some countries they could use Delphi at school, but if the same countries are those were most commercial copies are pirated, there would be little gain for Embarcadero, if they have no way to find and sue illegal users. O yes, many more users, and no gains. That’s not how you run a business.

    “It compiles to fast, powerful, non-bloated native code,”. No longer true. It
    *compiled*. Actually it has only an old, no longer powerful compiler. It does not support 64 bit. It can’t write drivers. Hope we’ll see the new compilers soon. Anyway, it’s years I’ve been saying Delphi should be positioned as an “easier C++”, not a VB/.NET wannabe. But then you target very demanding users – and you can’t offer them a so-so tool, even if it’s free.

    @Yogi Yan:
    “When I tried to convince my boss to upgrade to newer version of Delphi 2009”. Exactly in small companies developers may choose their tools. In larger ones is much more difficult. And the delay Delphi accumulated doesn’t make it appealing both to schools and business. And a free version would not change it.

  31. Dear Jolyon, I entirely see the need for good entry/educational Delphi / Pascal Gui type programs. But they need to be real and not too hobled or they will send the wrong message.

    I now however feel that if that is not matched by regular ongoing bug fixes, and responsible upgrade options, and above all reasonable pricing in the first place, it would all be for nothing.

    In fact reasonable entry level and all the above are needed to work hand in hand for any sort of viability.

    As it is now maintained that the IDE in Delphi is sort of progressing as it is, it would seem the bug fixes worked on for new releases would be easily back portable to older versions for no real cost to the producers.

    And new releases could be bought by us because they have new and wonderfully useful features in them, not because we need to get fixes for our expensive previous IDEs 🙂

    Paul

  32. @Yogi: Of course, you mentioned that Unicode isn’t the only new feature in Delphi 2009, right? Delphi 2006 isn’t bad, but the “recovery” didn’t really happen until Delphi 2007, and Delphi 2009 and now Delphi 2010 are pretty significant improvements again.

    If he isn’t impressed by or doesn’t think there’s any value in any of the features since Delphi 2006 after seeing all of the details, then it might be a lost cause.

    Just be realistic about the time required for Unicode related conversion issues.

  33. Hi, Marc!

    I suppose, you have changed your point of view. Because one year ago there was the free Oxygene compiler and the IDE with an affordable price of $300. Now we have Delphi Prism that costs $500, and no free compiler.

    And what the results? Do you have a boost in sales? What percent of the C# market you’re intend to gain in say 5 years?

    > if Delphi (even a limited subset of the product) is given away, there’ll be a percentage X of current users that will find the subset “good enough” and stop upgrading.

    Do you think it’s fairly to force people to pay for features in the Pro version they do not need? May be the Standard version would fit them better?

  34. I posted this as a comment on another blog….i felt it appropriate enough to carry it over to this blog.

    Our company still uses Delphi 7. We own two licenses of Delphi 2006 & 2007 each, but never used them (CRAP!). We decided to upgrade this year to Delphi 2010 because of the new language and RTTI features, Unicode, and DBX4, and drivers for Firebird and MySQL….and because they were offering the BOGO (Buy one get one free) deal. Here is a message we received from the Product Sales Manager :

    “The BOGO promo seemed to create more questions than opportunities. The plan was to give developers a second tool to use to get to know some of the Embarcadero products. Unfortunately the name would lead you to think you could buy one RAD Studio and get a second one for free.”

    When we realized we couldn’t get the second one free, we dropped out of the deal and cancelled our purchase order. Embarcadero has no clue on what they just lossed. My company had been purchasing products from them for ever (Delphi, Interbase, etc). We were a licensed vendor (partner) for sales of Interbase to our Clients.

    My company has been talking about moving away from Delphi for about three years now. The only two Delphi developers left in our company (Myself and another coworker) have convinced them to continue to use it for the past three years. Im afraid, those days have come to an end.

    Remember the day when everything was Delphi (IT WAS THE BOMB). There were a couple books published each year, Lost of Delphi Magazines published, User Groups in every large city, and very active component download pages (Delphi Super Page, Torry’s, ect).

    Its all gone away…….and soon, before you know it, it will be completely gone.

    Its either time for us to move on, or Embarcadero better pull a rabbit out of its hat!

    These ridiculous upgrade prices, maintenance fees, and crappy IDE releases every year arn’t cutting it.

    Im afraid the end of Delphi may be just around the corner

  35. Looks like Embarcadero guys are lauching an attack here. 🙂
    I suggest to better work on proposed Community Edition or resign.
    Being the teacher I could certainly say that students love Delphi. But they need time to compare and hear not their buddies who know only cOOl things, but some other opinion.
    In fact, fiasco with Turbo line was pefectly planned by Nick and his collegues. No press after initial lauch as no information were provided. Specially restricted version served with bad humour.
    And do you know that Turbo Explorer without Net crap is very-very stable IDE? I worked with students using this and saw only few IDE glitches. But with NET things it is whole new story 🙁
    Delphi is like Roly-Poly that rolls from one bad owner to another.
    I really wish econimic crysis to destroy Embarcadero in short time and allow Delphy to have second chance.

  36. One problem I didn’t see mentioned above is that choosing Delphi as a development tool is a huge risk for a company right now, no matter what the price is.

    My company is using C++ and C#. All our important stuff can be built using open source tools. If Microsoft ever decides to abandon C# (as they did with VB), we’ll just continue happily with Mono.

    I don’t see many new companies starting out on Delphi. It’s too risky.

    1. Hmmm. I’m not sure that that is the thinking. Far more likely is that it’s simply considered far less likely that Microsoft would abandon C# or even .NET entirely. After all, your Delphi code could probably be migrated to FPC almost as easily as your C# to Mono, and FPC exists independently of the strength of Delphi or Windows etc. If Microsoft were to drop C# and .NET, who’s to say that Mono would live on or if it did, for how long? Microsoft might choose to shut it down – iirc parts of Mono are only allowed to exist as long as Microsoft are happy to allow them to, and they could, in theory, send in the lawyers to pull the plug if they so chose).

      A promise is only a promise, not a legally binding contract.

      As common as it is, I find this attitude deeply depressing and ironic since, as you point out, Microsoft have a track record of abandoning technologies (they and their supporters/apologists would of course say that they don’t “abandon” they only “move on”). VB is not the only example. There’s also VB for Applications, Visual J++, the Java VM itself, even MFC (although I seem to recall a spark of activity in that area relatively recently) spring to mind.

      Not to mention the number of changes in direction in the .NET Framework itself even in it’s relatively short life. WindowsForms. The fundamental breaking changes made in WorkFlow Foundation. The LINQ for SQL episode should be particularly embarrassing for any .NET supporters arguing that it is the “stable and safe” choice.

      Delphi 2010 meanwhile will happily compile a large number of Delphi 1.0 applications, should you feel the need.

      (Best not mention the BDE and Kylix tho, eh?) LOL

      Seriously, any company afraid of finding themselves left in the lurch/being left behind by their tools vendor should FEAR Microsoft, not embrace them.

      My guess is that the people in the decision making positions are not even aware of Microsoft’s track record in these areas. They are either too inexperienced or not close enough to the technology (then or perhaps even now) to have been aware.

  37. Yes, Microsoft has a terrible track record of abandoning technologies for something new and shinier.

    A lot of managers are painfully aware of that fact and try now to escape any form of vendor lockin. That means using FOSS wherever possible.

    I think that if Embarcadero could provide a safe escape route, say by helping make the Freepascal compiler compatible with Delphi, it would really ease considering Delphi as a Development tool for the company’s next product.

  38. I like the free versions of Delphi, but i also bought most of the old ones. I also bought Borland Pascal 7 and Delphi 3 Standard for round about 100€ per Version. Also i got Delphi 1, 2 and 5. The Disappearing of the Standardversion leaves me no more than taking the free version since i cannot afford a new Version which is more than 200€ per Version.

    I’m a personal freetime freeware developer currently and i would like to upgrade some software from old Delphi to new Versions.

    It’s a hobby for me to develop software in Delphi, but i also did this long time in a firm.

    My conclusion is:
    I would like to see a new Delphi Standard 2010 for ~200€ with the possibility to distribute the software without limitations. I would pay also this every time when a new version comes out.

    Thanks for reading my 2 cents to this topic.
    Cheers, murphy

  39. I was a user of the very first Turbo Pascal, up through TP5 and TP7/BP7, then Delphi 1, then 3, then 5, and now 7. I really can’t afford to upgrade now.

    Why can’t there be a monthly subscription fee that gets you updates & newer versions (for no further fee or a more modest fee)?

    This would guarantee Embarcadero an income stream and result in happy developers.

    I think.

    Thoughts?

  40. “Why can’t there be a monthly subscription fee that gets you updates & newer versions (for no further fee or a more modest fee)?”

    Because ther would be no motivation any longer to produce a good product.

    I, too, started with TP3.01 and went all the way to D7.

    Then I bought D8. Oops.

    I never bought another version until Nick convinced me to try D2007.

    But no way would I be happy had I been obliged to pay a subscription over all those intervening years.

  41. I am beginning to think there’s something wrong in the “Delphi community”:

    “I really wish econimic crysis to destroy Embarcadero in short time and allow Delphy to have second chance.”
    Delphi was lucky enough to escape Borland wreck: Are you sure you want to challenge fortune and see if it survive another? Who would buy it? Some Russian billionare?

    “I think that if Embarcadero could provide a safe escape route, say by helping make the Freepascal compiler compatible with Delphi”
    And why should they fire in their feet? Would you help a competitor of yours, especially a free one, to become compatible with your apps?? What is this, kamikaze escape route? How could someone even think such things is beyond any rationale – just “hey, give me Delphi free, I don’t care what happens then”.

    It that’s the “Delphi community”, I prefer to see this hippie-like community disappear ASAP instead of risking Delphi itself to disappear 🙂

    1. @LDS: Embarcadero ARE helping their competitors. By destroying the independent developer community on which the success of Delphi rests they are ensuring it’s ultimate demise.

      They are chasing the Enterprise, just as Borland did to their cost. In Embarcadero’s case it perhaps won’t undo the entire company, but it will be the undoing of Delphi.

  42. Jo – Amen to your original post. About time a post like yours gets some real attention.

    1a) Visual Studio Standard 2008 (New) = $234.95 at Amazon (boxed version)
    1b) Delphi Pro 2010 (Upgrade) = $399.00 at Codegear (download only)

    And oh….that’s what, 4 tools as well in the package vs 1? So a better comparison should be against RAD Studio! hello!!??

    http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Visual-Studio-2008-Standard/dp/B000WM1Z46/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=software&qid=1253893160&sr=8-2

    2) When they announced they were coming to town to do a dog and pony show for D2009…I thought I may just head down there and finally see one of their “big events” that I assume was to help push Delphi 2009 and to finally see David I in real life…maybe even get his autograph! hehe…

    I thought the hotel might have a big convention room or something….and lo & behold it was held in one of the small rooms on the ground floor and ended up with like a classroom of folks. Hmmm…. I got the impression that the attendants were long-time Delphi users as well as most of the questions were very Delphi specific and the fact that most of the talk was way over my head. LOL So…I thought to myself – “why in the heck are they spending the money to come all the way here to have an up-close and personal Pizza Party with already very smart (existing) Delphi users?” (less me, of course…am still a newbie!). I couldn’t help think about the air tickets, rental car, hotel bills, food for them (there was about 3, maybe 4 of them)…and pizza and drinks for all of us, etc. …and all for what? a classroom only of folks!??

    As far as how the event went? For me – it was nothing to write home about and nothing that I think couldn’t be done in a pre-recorded video. I concluded afterward based on what I learned…or rather, did not learn – I’ll definitely won’t be going to one of those again, but maybe for the corporate guys in there….it may have been that helpful, I don’t know.

    3) Educational material, in general. Just go to the Visual Studio site…esp. the “Beginner” part of it and the videos they have to get someone started….really excellent stuff and nicely laid out.

    Even sites like this one that has a butt-load of videos to learn everything Visual Studio. I would gladly pay a subscription for a site like this for RAD Studio/Delphi: http://www.learnvisualstudio.net

    I think this is another reason why VS is way more popular – the educational material is simply in abundance and the forums are thriving with questions and answers. And with the Express versions, new programmers can easily learn and then eventually graduate to the Standard/Pro versions once they get their heads wrapped around whatever tool they’re learning.

    Anyway….I need all the “Visual” help I can get to help me learn and be more proficient at Delphi, but with the minimal videos that are not easy to find and the waning number of books on current versions of Delphi or even RAD studio….worries me big time.

    5) WEBSITE – FINDING INFO – I remember reading somewhere a long time ago that a study showed if a person has to click more than 3-4 times to get what he is looking for on a site…then on average a person loses interest and moves onto a different site altogether; it was something like that! If so…I’m practically in that category! =) Going to the site….it’s like I’m constantly clicking to find whatever I’m looking for, like pulling teeth….really. Too much fellas….I think the site could be designed alot better and be way more clearer. KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid.

    Case in Point – where do I find “Support” on the home page?? Please don’t tell me to press “EDN” at the top either…..that’s not universal !! {sigh}

    6) WEBSITE = S.L.O.W.
    I don’t know about you guys, but from the home page to the Shop to the Forum – I’m finding the site is just too slow overall in navigating any of it and I dread if I have to go to it. Maybe it’s the underlying coding or the server itself….I don’t know, but I think the site needs a major overhaul anyway to make it easier to navigate. Again….KISS.

    7) No upgrade version of Delphi Prism…only subscription!?? Delphi and RAD has upgrades and subscription, but not Prism? What’s going on here?? So where can I find the PRICE for the “maintenance subscription” for Prism on the website? I tried to find it – I gave up – I was interested in it since I’m not interested in RAD Studio (don’t need C++) and thought to upgrade to use the BOGO to upgrade to D2010. That’s the main reason why I didn’t go for the BOGO deal either…info I couldn’t find and finally gave up.

    So ultimately….I too, for what I use Delphi for, is simply not worth $400 upgrade every year…nor are their new product offerings and pricing. If I was new in programming and evaluating Delphi and other languages – one look at the price of Delphi as compared to the full blown Visual Studio – would be a no-brainer and RAD Studio wouldn’t even be a consideration. And if I wanted to upgrade VS as well – it wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg for the little man + there’s tons of help out there.

    Now…for anyone that would come back and say – “OK man…If you’re not happy with the price of Delphi – then just go to Visual Studio and be gone forever from Delphi!” – because all of us – YOU AND I AND THEM don’t need that and the least we can do is to give honest feedback to Embarcadero/Codegear, so they know where everyone is coming from. One less Delphi programmer is one less upgrade/subscription payment to them…and to help promote Delphi.

    As a “little man” programmer – they need me/us too….we all count. Don’t you put your small change in a glass jar everyday? Go to the bank at the end of the month and have them dump it into their change counting machine – and you’ll be surprised to find that all that change ends up being $30, $40, $50….and you wouldn’t have thunk it would have added up to that.

    8) As far as the whole Community Edition thing goes – they need something to compete with Visual Studio Express Editions – NOW – and keep it updated unlike the “Turbo Editions”. That’s another thing – looks quite bad it was started and never really was followed through and not updated; that’s almost worst than not starting anything at all.

    I think it could work, but they (bosses, marketing, operations) also need to get their thinking caps on and come up with something new and fresh to entice us and new up and coming programmers – AT LEAST better price their stuff as compared to Visual Studio Standard with all those tools…or bring it up to par. Add in Delphi PHP to the deal….maybe even the Ruby package. There’s no need to keep them separate if you want to compete, but maybe they don’t! I don’t know…it’s not my company, but I get the feeling the effort is in the pricing and these special deals. I wasn’t born yesterday; I get it – get me on your other tools…and you’ve got me in for those subscriptions, ie – the “buy Delphi and get RAD Studio deal”. uh uh…

    VS 2010 is coming….and who knows what MS has up their sleeve to market it. I, for one, have just installed VB Express 2008 and playing around with old VB coding I have laying around and will try to port a few apps I’ve written in Delphi to VB and see how things go….and if I like it, D2007 will be my last ever Delphi purchase. I think the whole Win32 vs .Net runtime arguments are no longer valid either for your typical application, so leveraging that “benefit” over .Net I think is moot now, but only for a handful of people.

    And oh….one last thing…..the whole IntraWeb thing – I would love to do some of that, but what the heck…..can I do this on a normal Linux server or do I need a specific host that has to support IntraWeb? Where do I find an updated list of hosts? What good is Intraweb to someone like me if I can’t find a 3rd party server/host to upload to that is reasonably priced to play around with it?

    Oops….crap, I didn’t want to, but ended up in a long rant. oh well. Es todo mi dos centavos!

  43. Face it: Delphi can no longer compete directly with VS or Eclipse or NetBeans or whatever. There is no way to give it away for free, or almost, and still generate enough revenues to pay for its development – unless someone is able to demonstrate it could, or could find an alternative source of revenues for which Delphi is also a driver, or it’s easier to ditch Delphi and just get the other revenues – why should someone run a non-profitable business just to make students and hobbyist happy?
    It is true that Delphi comes from a $49.99 tool, but those days are over. Someone remembers that until TP4 it couldn’t generate but 64k-limited .COM executables?That it came with almost no libraries, and toolboxes had to be bought separately, at $99 each? That a GUI library was added only in TP6? That only the much more expensive BP7 was able to use a DOS extender to break the 640k barrier? And the latest versions cost much more than $49.99, because it took more people and more time to build them. Would you accept the equivalent of those limitations to get a “cheap” tool today?
    Delphi *is not* Turbo Pascal. It became much more complex. It is no longer a tool for students or hobbyists. It became a professional development tool targeted at professionals – and unlike others it has to pay for its own development. No office suites or operating systems luring money, no Embarcadero expensive servers or middleware to be bought to run Delphi applications. Is it so difficult to understand?
    The only real drawback it’s not it is not cheap enough to be a tool to toy with, it’s it lost its technological advantages over competitors to justify its actual price.
    The only way it has to survive is to conquer its own niche, and believe me, it won’t be those of students and hobbyists who can’t / don’t want pay for it, and it would be a suicide to attempt to fight VS again, you can compete with someone who earns so much it can give some pieces away for free.
    All they can do is to find a niche where Delphi can excel, and find enough *paying* user to be a profitable business still.
    No one will start to use Delphi again in business just because it’s free – but those little shops that build their business upon free tools only and thereby there would be no return for Embarcadero anyway. And it won’t go beyond that if it can’t offer advanced functionalities.
    But there’s space for a professional, high-quality, enterprise class, native development tool that could fill the gap between C++ and the managed world – what is missing is the high-quality and the enterprise-class features, and won’t be less revenue to allow for achieving it. They have to invest a lot of money to bring Delphi back to the technology edge.That’s what the indipendent developer community needs, not a cheap tool good to play in the evening and nothing more.
    And money comes from the professionals, not from students and hobbyists.

    My suggestion to Embarcadero: build a free version of Delphi who can’t produce working executables, only the IDE could launch applications. To get a working executables, the free version must submit the source code to an Embarcadero site which would produce the executable and put it on sale (if the programmer wish to sell it), or allow free downloads, and take a percentage on each sale to repay the “free” version. Submitted code could be used by Embarcadero. It may require an expensive infrastructure, but the “community” will pay somehow for Delphi development.

    1. @LDS: I don’t think you understand the point of what is being proposed.

      Nobody is suggesting that Embarcadero start giving away Professional, Enterprise or Architect Editions of Delphi.

      Nobody (or not many people) is even suggesting that they charge LESS for these editions.

      What IS being suggested is that a NEW edition of Delphi be created that is offered for free, and that a further edition be created that is offered between that free edition and the current Pro editions.

      The REASON for doing this is not to kill Delphi or undermine it’s paying user base, but to STRENGTHEN that paid for commercial user base. Many of those companies currently using and paying for Professional and Enterprise Delphi are only doing so reluctantly, to maintain aging Delphi code. Many of them now seriously think hard about starting any new projects in Delphi.

      Why?

      Because the WIDER community of Delphi developers is drying up because ONLY big companies and serious, commercial developers can afford to finance a “Delphi habit”.

      Most (by which I mean nearly ALL) of the people I know or have ever known, that used Delphi were self taught. They did not come out of University with Delphi experience or qualifications to secure their first job. They are/were software development enthusiasts that caught the Delphi bug, perhaps in a job where thy were exposed to it, but whom then went on to buy their own licenses and do the hard yards in their own time. Sometimes they were lucky enough to get a job where they could do this learning, but that was years ago when Delphi was still a healthy a vibrant player in the commercial market.

      These days a trainee in commercial shop is far more likely to be learning C# and/or Java. Not Delphi.

      So if Delphi is to have ANY CHANCE in those PROFESSIONAL AND ENTERPRISE markets, Embarcadero have to find a way to foster the entrepreneurial learners that once found their way into jobs in those paying sites. Charging ever more for the products and increasing the costs of staying current is NOT the way to do it.

      You idea of finding a “profitable niche” is a joke. Delphi is a general purpose programming language. There is no “niche” for such a product since there are any number of general purpose programming language products out there.

      And your suggestions for a “Delphi store” is frankly laughable.

      1. You are assuming that Delphi developers are in it to make money, selling code through “stores”. I really don’t think you understand what makes the Delphi community really tick at all.

      2. The administration costs would be immense, given that this is to support a FREE product. Any %age that Embarcadero would take would have to pay not only for the “free edition” but also for the on-going maintenance and running costs of the store mechanism itself.

      The way to do that effectively is to find a way of offering FREE for as *little* cost and inconvenience (to both Embarcadero but also to the users) as possible.

      Some up front work to create the free/Standard Edition SKU’s of a Delphi product would be an initial development cost that would need to be absorbed, but once done, if done correctly, the on-going cost of maintaining those versions would be negligible. It’s just another product of the build/release management processes ALREADY IN PLACE.

  44. Sorry, it’s you and many others that refuse to understand there is no way to release a free/cheaper version of Delphi without impacting Pro and Enterprise sales, unless the free/cheap version is so limited you’d start to complain again it is not what you need.

    The companies that think about abandoning Delphi are not doing it because of lack of developers or free versions, they think it because they’re afraid Delphi can no longer fulfill actual needs – and wonder how long it will be available – and too many third party libraries are needed to fill actual gaps. What Delphi needs is to fill those gaps, not wasting resources and revenues for a rearguard battle it can no longer win.
    And there’s always the wish to be on the winner’s side – and that’s not looks to be Delphi’s.

    “I know or have ever known, that used Delphi were self taught.”

    Those days are over. You may refuse to accept it, but those days are really over. And they won’t be back. Still people learn languages that are outside what they are exposed at schools. They do if they find them worth it. Again, what’s the driver for learning a language? The availability a free version? There’s Watcom Fortran for free. Why people don’t learn Fortran? Do they learn Java or .NET because they are free, or because they feel that’s where they perceive technology edge (and jobs) is? A C/C++ job is not easy to find, and often you have to learn it yourself. Yet, people do it. Just because it is free, or because they feel it’s the most powerful language? Again, why don’t they learn Fortran? Or Ada? Or any other niche language available for free?

    You are disperately trying to live in a “golden age” that ended much time ago.

    “You idea of finding a “profitable niche” is a joke. Delphi is a general purpose programming language”.
    The fact it is a general purpose language does not mean that today native applications are becoming a niche market – and a niche does not need to be a small one. In some way, even C/C++ development is today a “niche” one, compared to the much broader Java/.NET/PHP/Python/etc. market.

    “And your suggestions for a “Delphi store” is frankly laughable.” Just because you’re afraid to give your precious code away? Again all you want is a free version that could be used for professional development without giving back anything.
    You say it clearly: “for as little inconvenience to both Embarcadero but *also to the users*” you would not accept any limitation, right? Here we say “you can’t have a full barrel and a drunk wife” – and that’s exactly what you want. Stop dreaming, and look at the harsh reality.

    IMHO if the “Delphi community” wants a free Delphi they have just to spend their student/hobbyist time to work on FreePascal and Lazarus and make it grow. If you want something free, why don’t you build it?

  45. > Just because you’re afraid to give your precious
    > code away? Again all you want is a free version
    > that could be used for professional development
    > without giving back anything.

    I do apologise. I had mistaken you for someone engaged in a meaningful discussion. But clearly you are just peddling some crooked agenda of your own since you persist in utterly ignoring points put to you.

    I don’t want a free version of Professional. I can get that already if I want.

    I – and others like me – *want* to pay for a Delphi license, but I can neither afford nor justify that expense given that I make no money from it and do not seek to make money from it.

    I feel you have said all that you have to say. If you have anything sensible or additional to add go ahead, but please try to add something to the discussion, not simply try to close it down.

  46. LDS Said:
    “Sorry, it’s you and many others that refuse to understand there is no way to release a free/cheaper version of Delphi without impacting Pro and Enterprise sales, unless the free/cheap version is so limited you’d start to complain again it is not what you need.

    The companies that think about abandoning Delphi are not doing it because of lack of developers or free versions, they think it because they’re afraid Delphi can no longer fulfill actual needs – and wonder how long it will be available – and too many third party libraries are needed to fill actual gaps. What Delphi needs is to fill those gaps, not wasting resources and revenues for a rearguard battle it can no longer win.”

    Sorry boy, you’re completely wrong. In the companies that think in abandoning Delphi, THE MAIN REASON is the lack of developers. And in companies that don’t ever CONSIDER using Delphi, THE MAIN REASON is the lack of developers. I know, I tried to do a recruitment. And didn’t find real talent in Delphi – we end hiring a (extremely competent, as we discovered little after) C# devel which learned Delphi very fast.

    Making the community grow again, making Delphi ecosystem thrive again
    is the main priority. We need new blood on Delphi market.

  47. @Jolyon
    “I feel you have said all that you have to say. If you have anything sensible or additional to add go ahead, but please try to add something to the discussion, not simply try to close it down”

    No, he thinks that the main reason for Delphi refusal is the lack of technical abrangence… Things like regex or crypto out of the box. It would be nice to have, just like 64-bit compiler or x-platform.

    But the main reason to companies not to use Delphi in new code is just THERE’S NO NEW BLOOD on Delphi market. (btw, there’s a way to use bold on this blog engine?). It’s too risky to start a project of (let’s say) 5 or 6 people and discover months after you couldn’t find enough competent people to enter the position – so you go with 2 or 3 devs. And schedule have to be renegotiated, and so on. A lot of risk.

    The reason is not technical at all…..

Comments are closed.