I try not to make too many public comments about issues that frustrate me, especially when they pertain to a product I use and support. But Embarcadero has another "offer" to buy or upgrade Delphi (or RAD Studio) that just makes me angry all over again.
First, as I've probably mentioned here before, I have been using Delphi for many years, even its predecessor, Borland Pascal and Turbo Pascal before that in the DOS days. For a while, I was happy just paying an upgrade price after a few versions when I thought there were enough new features to justify the cost. Then they upped the price significantly and introduced a subscription--so I simply upgraded less often (and even considered moving to .NET). When they announced they were going to abolish the upgrade program a couple of years ago, I was starting to use Delphi a lot more and finally exploring mobile development seriously. Since mobile platforms change much more frequently than desktop ones, having an up-to-date development tool is pretty important.
So I finally started renewing my Delphi subscription. I must say it's nice to know I can always get patches and updates and when a new version is announced, I can truly get excited because I'll be able to use the enhancements I see in the webinars.
The Professional edition of Delphi is all I've ever needed to support nearly any application development task that has presented itself, especially when Embarcadero moved their mobile compilation support from the Enterprise version down to the Professional version. As I look through the features that come only with the more expensive edition, there are only three areas I feel are important enough to make me stop to think: 1) the expanded database support in FireDAC, 2) RAD Server, and 3) Linux development (there's also Enterprise Connectors but I don't understand what these are). Expanded database support is very easy to add with Devart's affordable UniDAC library and while I have a great interest in Linux, it's not the main source of my development income; besides, there are so many free and powerful tools for Linux (like Lazarus) that I don't even miss Delphi there. RAD Server is fascinating and I could see how it could save time for web service developers. But even after reading a blog about the advantages, I just can't justify the cost increase as my needs for such server-based, multi-tier applications have been nicely met with the open source Delphi MVC Framework.
A few months ago, I started writing a book about Delphi 10.4 and at first it was going to cover all the advanced features available in Delphi. Certainly, these should include features only found in the Enterprise edition, right? So, I asked Embarcadero if I could get a limited-time use or one-time discount to move up to the Enterprise edition--solely for covering those advanced chapters of the book. What was offered was merely a small discount on the purchase of a new license of Delphi—no possibility of changing my current subscription from Professional to Enterprise, no possibility of an extended trial or any other way to use it. I was surprised by the lack of flexibility in their policies but they can, of course, choose to run things how they want. (I would think they would at least have been happy to get the edition-upgrade money and see me at a higher annual renewal rate.)
When the focus of the book changed to be more about cross-platform development and helping established Windows developers take their existing Delphi VCL skills to mobile devices, it aligned perfectly with my situation and since I can do everything I need with the Professional version, I wouldn't need the Enterprise version. In fact, it might even be a selling point for the book as I'll guess there are a lot of Delphi developers in the same boat as I.
Very soon after my discussion with Embarcadero was dropped, the company made a public offer to encourage people to get the Enterprise version. It turned out to be almost as good as the offer that was made to me. Now, in the last month of the offer, they've expanded that offer with an Enterprise Upgrade Pack that includes several components and a some tools, valued at over $13,000 (they say):
- IPWorks WebSockets from /n software
- IntraWeb 15 Personal from AtoZed
- SecureBridge from Devart
- InstallAware 12
- TwineCompile for C++Builder
- The Delphi Parser
- TeeGrid from Steema Software
- Aurelius ORM Framework from TMS
- Winsoft Component Package - Standard
- FirePower X from Woll2Woll
As I looked through this list, I wondered who would be taking advantage of this. Certainly not developers who currently have the Enterprise version and who likely already have a set of components they use. Probably not Delphi developers who are simply maintaining legacy Windows applications and have no plans on upgrading. What about someone like me? How valuable would I consider that bonus package to be?
Let's go through the list:
- I don't currently have a use for WebSockets.
- IntraWeb 14 Personal for Delphi 10.3 Rio is free now and I suspect version 15 will be available for 10.4 soon (you can't even buy the personal edition) so I would either just purchase IntraWeb standard or use the free personal version of 14--if I used IntraWeb. My glimpses of it in the past were underwhelming. Perhaps I should try it out again.
- I already have SecureBridge, build my installers with InnoSetup, and don't use C++ Builder. The Delphi Parser looks like it could help some companies upgrade legacy code. Charting would be fun but I've never had a situation with which to use it. The database applications I deal with are either small or synchronize with external services so haven't found using ORMs to be that helpful--I didn't even use Devart's EntityDAC when I had it a few years ago.
- I had never heard of the Winsoft Component Package so was curious. There's a long list of components but as I clicked on each one for more information, the details are sparse with very few screenshots. Many of them looked like they were written long ago (DAO for MS Access) or for which now have built-in functionality (WebView) or would otherwise never be used (COM ports for Android?). Perhaps I'm wrong but the site itself looks like it was hastily put up and has no history dating back further than the beginning of this month. That one seems very sketchy to me.
- Woll2Woll's components are nice--I used their grid nearly 20 years ago at a company I worked for at the time. I'm glad to see they've not only stayed alive and true to Delphi but kept up with the times and added FireMonkey support to their products--many long-time VCL component vendors have not.
So out of this list of packages, I would probably start using FirePower X immediately. And that's about it. Which means I would have to pay $2,559 to get a $459 package for free. And to write Linux apps. And try out RAD Server and a few other Enterprise-only features.
I wonder how others feel? Every developer has different programming niches and different component set needs and will likely have a different subset of these package components they find useful. But will any Delphi developer really look at this and see a cost benefit so substantial they'll actually pay nearly $2,600 and jump on this offer?
What is the real "value" of this package for you?
Well, it turns out there IS an upgrade path from the Professional version to the Enterprise version--but you have to really push your sales person to seek it out. After multiple inquiries, I finally have been offered a bigger discount that would switch up my edition. However, I won't get the current Component Pack offer which is only for new users. But that's OK--as mentioned above, I already have SecureBridge so the only benefit to me would be the FirePower X component set.
One thing compelling me to do this now is my UniDAC subscription is up for renewal and by upgrading to Enterprise, I could use FireDAC instead and save the UniDAC renewal subscription. That's a small part. I'm also keenly interested in using Linux even though I don't have any business case for it.
I have two weeks to decide.
So after pondering several aspects of this, I decided to go for it after all. I support a lot of different projects and there could be a justification for having all the databases supported by FireDAC: I could drop my UniDAC subscription (albeit only $249 a year) and it would be much simpler to develop Linux apps with my already-installed Delphi rather than downloading and setting up Lazaras/FreePascal.
So I contacted my sales rep at Embarcadero and they gave me an offer for a 2-year subscription for just a little more. Now I'm reinstalling several instances of Delphi and several sets of components. What joy!
But wait--I actually DID get the Component Pack as well! I didn't think I would be eligible for that but I am delighted to find that the Professional-to-Enterprise upgrade did also get me the plethora of libraries and components advertised. Well, now I'll have to check some of them out to see just how good they are. There have been quite a few Embarcadero Blog posts lately from the guys at WinSoft proclaiming the goodness of the many offerings in their suite.
Look for some blog posts from me on those in the coming weeks.