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Embarcadero clearly don’t want or need new customers. Their product activation system is not only a nuisance, but an active barrier to new customers, rendered unable even to access trial versions of their products.

I am currently investigating PHP tools for a new project. I have already looked at Eclipse and NetBeans and whilst they have things to like they also have lots of things that I dislike. I wanted to take a look at RAD-PHP XE, so I downloaded the trial. Then I installed it, and that’s when I got the message loud and clear that No, thank you very much, Embarcadero are not interested in my custom.

Kindly bu**er off and use someone elses products.

What gave me this impression… let me tell you.


Seriously? WTF!

In fact, I may even have been required to sign up for a Developer Network account before I could even get as far as being issued with a serial number (though I may be mistaken and could have been able to login if I already had one, but not required to create an account if I didn’t).

But in any event, the point is – WHY?

OK, let’s just say that it’s reasonable for Embarcadero to want to capture some details about me before I even start a trial of their product.

I hope they don’t intend using that information to send further unsolicited communication while I am investigating their software. That sort of pushy selling really get’s my goat and is likely to cause me to reject a company that engages in that sort of thing, regardless of the merits of their product.

So I have to fill in a stupid registration form before I can start the download (why the hell can’t I do it while I’m waiting?), but at least once it’s downloaded I’ll be good to go…

OH NO! This is Embarcadero we’re talking about….


Not only do I have to register for a trial copy, I also have to ACTIVATE it. They can’t just send me a serial number with a time lock.

After installing the product they force me to run an Activation Wizard before I can start trialling it.

And here is where the genius of the system really comes to the fore.

I duly entered the Serial Number they emailed me into the registration wizard dialog.

I carefully entered my DN account name (so I presume even if not required to download the trial, a DN account is presumably a pre-requisite after all).

I diligently entered my DN password.

I submitted my information.

And hey presto my trial finally started.


Not at all.

I instead got told that activation failed with some mumbo-jumbo about corrupt license blah blah blah.

No worries – there appear to be two options.

1 – Try web registration. I think what I have may count as “Trouble Connecting”

2 – Register Later. Ah. No. This is’t an option – it’s just a bit of useless dialog bling. A button that never enables, just sits there dangling the carrot of deferred registration, an enticement that is never actually offered it would seem.

So let’s try again….


I really did have high hopes.

But it seems that the “trial” in Embarcadero’s “trial” software is in getting to actually use the bloody stuff in the first place.

Because upon visiting the page that the Web registration option takes me to, I am told that I have exceeded the activation count for that Serial Number.


I tried it once, and it failed. And that has exceeded the activation limit?





It may have some things that I find less than perfect, but at least the damned thing works.

Hell, at least it let’s me BE a user!

Poor show Embarcadero.

Very, VERY poor show.

I had heard some grumblings about Product Activation with the latest Delphi releases. It seems that the rot runs even deeper than I had feared.

37 thoughts on “Product Activation: How To Lose Customers”

  1. If your mail server has strict checks on arriving emails, you wont get the serials. this happens to me.

    the dns names of the email server point not always back to the email servers who sending that email. sometimes they point to not existing domains or they still point to codegear.

    maybe they corrected that, after my support ticket.

    1. I got the email.

      I got the serial #.

      It just didn’t work. It didn’t activate, but now claims that I have exceeded the activation limit.


  2. The problem is not registration/activation. Other tools ask them (Office, for example). The problem is how they implemented it. Of course, a trial could be automatically working in a time-limited fashion without registering it. But if you ask for an activation for some reason, it should work flawlessy.
    But it looks that Delphi can never get a functionality right from beginning. They always need two-three releases (or more) to make it working as it should. IMHO there are serious issues at the product management level. Piracy is surely an issue for Embarcadero, but a buggy activation procedure is not a good welcome to users.

  3. Hallo!

    Did you try on the weekend … EDN was not reachable from here. Maybe you just had bad luck:(


    1. @Micahel: Nope, I tried literally minutes before writing the post. Mid-week, mid-evening.

      Whatever the reason the process failed, there are NO excuses.

  4. Yes, indeed. It isn’t product activation that’s the problem.

    But if you are going to do product activation do it right. The problems with product activation in Delphi and related products seems to have gotten, and continues to get, worse under Embarcadero.

    And imposing activation on trial products is just crazy. Especially if it is as cumbersome and flawed as the one Embarcadero insist on.

  5. I had similar Problems. We used BDS2006 and tried to upgrade to EDS2010. Basic License was stored in Borlands Database, the Upgrade License in Embarcaderos Database. And somehow they don’t match. Dozenz of Mails and Calls, new Registration Links, etc. it still doesn’t work. We payed the bill several month ago, but we still work with BDS2006. No further comment… 🙁

  6. I’m a delphi fan going all the way back to Turbo Pascal, and I have to echo your frustrations. I had hopes with Embarcadero, but it appears as though they are more concerned with their electronic delivery / electronic installation whiz-bang setup that they’ve forgotten about small developers, or for that matter anybody who doesn’t share their enthusiasm for their cool new way of doing business. Tell them that you just want a DVD to install from without using the internet, and they’ll respond as if you have a square head. I’ve all but given up. As for wether or not they’ll use the registration info for sales … It seems as though Embarcadero is on a new sales push, because recently I’m getting nearly daily emails to every address I’ve ever used for delphi. Seriously Embarcadero, my borcon2004@(mydomain).com address has been dead for a while

  7. This product-activation is one of the reasons we migrate to Lazarus. You can’t install Delphi if the company (or product) is out of business. If your company rely on A tool very much you want to be sure that you can use it in the future.

  8. You don’t need to adopt NetBeans or RadPHP for PHP development as there is a very good tool called Code Charge Studio.

    Check it out @ http://www.codecharge.com/products/product.php?product_id=1

    Some highlights from my side:
    – It installs easily
    – Does not require any trial activation
    – Works with on old PC with limited RAM
    – Supports more than just PHP for web scripting


  9. If you think this is Embaradero’s only way they are losing their customers, you are clearly dillusional. The fact they charge such enormous fees for updates, and those redicululous maitenance fees …as well as forgetting about their previous IDE customers with updates are additional factors.

    Embarcadero lost are company this year. Its a shame. We had been using Delphi since 1995. We moved on!

  10. I hate when I have to register for trial software. As far as I have seen the registration data is used only for sending some spam, in one case they even called me. If I download the trial version, I will base my opinion on the product, no amount of spam will change it.

  11. I have a question – some time ago I’ve tried to install Delphi from a disk (yeah I am that old) and activation failed because of the lack of Internet connection (yeah it was not in the US).
    Did this process change? Can I activate my purchased copy of Delphi without Internet connection and international phone calls now?

  12. Yeah, i can understand you. I have a workstation here, which has no inet access. Every time a Delphi needs to be installed, currently i put it on network with moving it to another room and register Delphi then. After that the inet access is removed again. That’s kinda dumb for me, but it’s a solution.

    For me it was fine to use Delphi 7 with a serial when used and install it where you need it. Now it’s a complicate and long process.

    And i hate the installation limit. 🙂 But i’d never come to one.

  13. Companies of all sorts try this again and again. All it does is irritate and drive away paying customers. Pirates have the easiest time installing this stuff. That aside, the ridiculous part is actually requiring a person to jump through hoops to try the software. If you want someone to try out and like the software, the install should be easy, uncomplicated and welcoming.

    Some people would probably go out and use the pirated version for the trial and then register it if they continued using it.

  14. Jolyon,
    I could not agree more. The registration process is not very well implemented and its not user friendly.
    EMB makes very hard to try something new for us.

  15. I like Microsoft Visual Studio approach – no “activation” nonsense to install the product you bought, but if you want a bonus – MSDN subscription – you should activate the bonus. The sooner Codegear accept the same approach to the customers the better.

  16. Wow. I didn’t know the activation was attached to demos! I can understand the rationale behind activating a real copy–I don’t agree with it, but I can understand the point behind it–but a trial version?!?

  17. Reading this reminds me why I’ve switched to Open Source a long time ago. Can’t even imagine putting up with stuff like that anymore.

    Give PyQt a try, that’s all I can say.

  18. hmm.. My completely legal bought version of Delphi prism on mono develop on my iMac completely can not start! The reason is locale – Russian in my case! And copy protection system is preventing Delphi prism for start!))

    Funny, but this not fixed for half a year!

  19. Alex Artsikhovsky: yes, you can, full information about registering is available. If you are in Russia, than check my website, I have that document.

  20. I don’t know why the author sends curse to Embarcadero. That registration process exists for years, from Delphi 6, and nothing has changed.
    So, the same is about at least 10 years, first at BDN, than at CDN, than at EDN.

    Yes, that software has to be registered. Yes, there are lot another software that wants to be registered to, even more complicated way. Yes, while it a bit prevents piracy, it also does not makes life easy for honest customer. But this is rithoric question.

    And Shane: – Delphi prices was dropped by Embarcadero. Borland sold Delphi for higher prices. And the upgrade price of 55% from the full price – it’s ok. And 30% maintenance price – its definitely not a robbery.

    Look around, where you saw cheaper upgrade and maint proces? And, anyway, you want Borland/Codegear/Embarcadero to give you everyting for free?

    1. @kdv – yes, there is plenty of other software that requires registration, but not as much software that requires not just registration but a convulted activation procedure even for the TRIAL versions of the software!

      And that other software uses an activation procedure that actually works, in my experience.

      it is only with Embarcadero’s system that I have ever experienced such problems.

      And yes, Embarcadero inherited that system from Borland, but again – it is only since it has been in Embarcadero’s hands that I, personally, am aware of such issues arising. yes, I have bumped into the activation limit in the past (with D7), but never before Embarcadero have I had an activation fail AND then tell me that I have (subsequently) exceeded my limit (that not having been the cause of the initial failure).

      This is the 2nd time by the way. The first time was with a legitimately purchased full license of Delphi 2010.

  21. Too bad. I’ve played with WPF more than ever lately with the DevExpress 10.2 beta. It’s a resource hog and shockingly slow. Since that’s Microsoft’s stated future Delphi could flourish by playing their cards right. Putting too many obstacles up would ruin the opportunity with many potential customers, though.

    Deksden, that’s on RemObjects for Prism. I’ll have to take a look since I run OS X in Russian most of the time. Just haven’t used their MonoDevelop integration enough to notice I suppose. Very strange that they would have a problem like that since they have Ukranians and Russians on the team. Is there a QC number?

  22. Heh, it doesn’t seem to be a problem “activating” a “worked” version of the installer… DUH — who cares about selling when we can have fun?! 😛
    Anyways you might wanna give Eclipse and Android a try… it will be kida’ “the next big thing” — at least that’s how I see it…

  23. Embarcadero is just another guardian… the things we need in Delphi has been replaced by things we didn’t need at all. I think this is a clearly invitation to become outlaw, and use things like Delphi Distiller, or worst, to use repacked Delphi releases that all of us knows how to find and get. I miss the good old times when you can get Turbo stuff that works pretty good. If this continue to happen, we are going to loose a very good development tool. It’s a shame.

  24. Much agreed.

    Embarcadero’s activation requirements and issues with it add just another shovel of sand in the cogs that didn’t need it to begin with.
    They’re no Microsoft, and this issue makes it plainly obvious, they should stick to what they can manage.

  25. Deksden: I’m sorry to hear that. can you pls send me an email to mh at remobjects dot com so we can resolve this for you? thanx!

  26. NuSphere? I second that. RAD-PHP? Stay away from it. It’s a new IDE around the old PHPVCL. It’s even got bugs from PHP4Delphi 1.0. It was just a product to get some money w.o. value. Current subscribers can only pay more money for a bad product. It’s not for nothing that the whole product was rebuild from scratch but the original vcl was kept (and somewhat enhanced to be fair). I would suspect that they would respect the current customer base who where not able to use it for real-life-apps.
    No matter what licence issue. I have VERY GOOD support from nuSpere now. Emb. can learn a lot from them!

  27. Marc – it – I uninstalled Prism 2009 and my Delphi licence was removed too:), I had to register D2010 again, it worked. This happens;) and I think it was the VS2008 uninstaller that had a problem with an addin and the second attempt then worked … The Prism uninstaller knows about it, but VS installer cannot know;) Now I took the opportunity and have seperated the .net world from the Delphi developments to 2 machines or someone can install into a seperate virtual machine.

    Jolyon – this has to be improved I agree. Honestly, if you see it from EMBs perspecitve the DB-Tools this is an improvment … I am using E/R Studio now for 10 years … and what we have now is a lot better than in the past. It went this far, that people bought licence copies but used cracked version because of not having to register – this worked by sending an email … to key@emarcardero.com or .uk… EMB is fortune n hundred supplier.

    I agree it would helpful to be in the position to generate a demo key for a limited period on my own. This would help. Sometimes I have the impression that we are part of beta test of a licensing system … and imagine your computer breaks on friday night … and you have to ship a fix on monday … computers break on friday night!.

  28. Jolyon,
    I can understand your frustration, but why was Step 4 not filing a free installation/registration support case? That has to be less new effort than writing a blog about it. Plus, you make the support techs do some work, so you spread the pain around. 😉

    If you get a good response from filing the support case, you can get on to work with the product. If the support team’s response is not so good, you get more to complain about in your blog. Sounds like a win-win situation!

  29. Activation is not bad per se. But its quality is equal to the Delphis Help. I hope Emba will finally remove the .net stuff and the bad help from the product.

  30. I’m mainly a Delphi user but for my web work I use php and I can’t live without NuSphere PhpED (made with delphi).

  31. Broken activation is a problem, high upgrade prices not so much as long as you get a quality product.

    What is pushing me away though is that i can’t get an upgrade. I’ve been a loyal Delphite since V1 (and object pascal before that) but i’m just outside their upgrade criteria – they don’t want my business!

    To top it off, when i contacted Embarcadero support about this, they ignored me completely, but passed my private details on to a ‘sales company’ which seems very dubious. How happy I was to find out thier salesman could offer me a £1 discount!

  32. I will give Lazarus an opportunity. It is Open Source, very stable, and with it you can compile for Windows 32, Windows 64, Linux, Mac, W Mobile, IPhone, and more. You can install Codetyphon, it comes with a lot of packages already installed, including Indy, reporter, OpenGL, and many more. Better yet, it is 99% compatible with Delphi…

  33. @Aim
    Sounds about par for course with them from my own personal experiences over the years.

    People who believed the hype that things would get better once Borland sold Codegear to EMB missed one important fact. Most of the same senior people are still there so same ‘stuff’ happens.

    It also now shows so well I think what many people thought for a long while. Namely the ‘Its Borland Management not us !’ or variation thereof whenever anything went wrong was them trying to deflect criticism when most of the troubles were self inflicted. The SOX excuse over lack of roadmaps been a great example I think.

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