David Intersimone on DevCo, the viability of Delphi, and Turbo Ruby

I just got off the phone with David Intersimone. My recent SD Times column on "DevCo," (the codename for the spin-off of Borland's languages and database teams) ruffled some feathers, particularly when I described the Delphi language as "well past its peak, and with its Pascal roots ? on the wrong side of trends in syntax."

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To address that line specifically, David I said that was "like saying that BASIC died in 1968?.Languages don't die unless [language designers] stop innovating in them." Which is true. But I wasn't speaking of missing features, I was speaking primarily about the trend away from structural explicitness and secondarily about the prevalence of C-language syntax. [ ]{style="mso-spacerun: yes"}Is Delphi something that a lot of people are intrigued by? Not if this treemap of sales of books about programming languages (taken from Tim O'Reilly) reflects broad trends (and I think it does). Perhaps I'm holding Borland / DevCo to too high a standard, but I think it speaks poorly to the language that there are more people reading about Vbscript than Delphi (I take the response as given that: "they don't read books because they're too busy making money." Sure.)

I highly doubt that the addition of features such as generics, closures, or even LINQ to Delphi will be sufficient to cause a resurgence in popularity (although they'll undoubtedly be welcomed by existing users). A resurgence in the popularity of LISP or Smalltalk is unlikely but to my mind either is more likely than a resurgence in popularity of Delphi. I just don't see this decade's market embracing the explicitness of Pascal-like language design. It's possible to imagine, though, a language that was backwards-compatible with today's Delphi but which supported looser styles of creating program entities (just as VB's "option explicit" essentially supports two different philosophical approaches). Such a language is what I meant by a "Delphi-in-name-only."

We talked briefly about the Classhelper technology, which is exactly the sort of thing that I see as being important to future growth.

The growth of Delphi aside, David I shared several interesting points about the spin-off that may provide some food for thought:

"DevCo" consists of the development tools, the database technologies, and some "legacy products." Obviously Delphi, JBuilder, and C++Builder, but also Interbase, JDataStore, Kylix, Turbo Assembler, and some others.

They have a .NET embeddable SQL database they've shown but not announced as a product.

"DevCo" has licenses for a number of Borland products (Together, RequisitePro, etc.) so that they can continue to sell the IDE in an integrated manner.

"Borland Developer Studio" has been the internal name for that which is installed by the DVD. In some places, they've marketed this as BDS, in other places as Delphi. This was the source of a little confusion on my part in the article, as I thought "Delphi" had become the overarching brand. One way or the other, the name for "DevCo"s products has not been determined and may even be determined by a contest among users! (Cute.)

David I says that Borland has a vested interest in the success of DevCo, as failure of DevCo would reflect poorly on Borland.

The leadership team of DevCo includes: Nigel Brown, Michael Swindell, Steve Todd, Alan Bauer, Ben Netick, and David I plus an internal Board of Directors.

They have 3-year roadmaps for Delphi, JBuilder, and Interbase.

Sarbanes-Oxley has lots of implications for software and other high-tech companies. It may be that under SOX you cannot add features in an update. (If this is the case, wow.)

The size of DevCo will be \~250-300 at the start.

DevCo will be headquartered in Scotts Valley. Borland will be HQ'ed in Cupertino. "That's the plan" (but investors / buyers might overrule).

Delphi: generics coming, eventually will support LINQ.

David I doesn't like referring to VCL as cross-platform. Likes to say "leveraging skills across implementations?...NET is not a platform, it's a layer on top of Win32."

In response to question about VCL on the Mac: "We're looking into that." Not on the roadmap. Time will tell; first and foremost is supporting existing customers. With bootcamp, will people develop in Windows on Mac hardware? Wondered David I.

"Wouldn't be surprised" if DevCo eventually supported more languages than are currently supported. (Didn't bite hard on my "Turbo Ruby" enthusiasms.) Mentioned

Interbuilder, a before-its-time JavaScript & Data tool. "Some of that DNA is still in DevCo."

Sees a "healthy market" for "the JBuilder experience," no matter on what technology that experience is built (originally, JBuilder was built on Delphi, then on Primetime, and in the future, on Eclipse).

We talked a little bit about the tension between spending resources on languages / IDEs and on databases. Traditionally, this has been a problem for Borland. David I is more on the languages side and didn't really have an opinion on whether the world was looking for a new dBase / Paradox.

Finally, we heartily agreed that "developers matter" and that there were golden opportunities for bold companies producing great development tools.