A Sinking Ship or a Submarine?

The departure of Barry Kelly, a compiler engineer, at a time when EMBT is devoting quite possibly the most effort on their compilers in a long time, is certainly not a good sign for EMBT.  Especially when he says “I was in the same position for more than six years, but I didn’t necessarily want to be pigeonholed as a compiler guy”.  What that says to me, is that EMBT has some serious human resource issues.  Keeping talented and devoted staff is a necessity for any IT company.  You are only as good as your people.  When people leave without having another position, it usually indicates major organizational dysfunction.

I’ve also heard that EMBT is losing senior staff because salaries have not been increased since EMBT bought CodeGear, and Barry’s statement that “I’d fallen out of love with Delphi, and could no longer motivate myself to try and make it better - the gap I’d try to bridge would be a gap too far for the market to bear.” is also very disconcerting.

I remember when I worked for a ticketing company (I would be interested in doing that again - too bad Gateway isn’t hiring remote developers).  I was gung ho to make the software the best of the best, but due to technical limitations we couldn’t do so without some significant re-engineering.  Management would not approve the work, and financially the company was in a holding pattern, unable to compete and grow without the necessary technical, marketing and process changes.  The company was public, and initially I thought the possibilities were endless.  As an insider I was privy to some of the politics, bad decisions, and lack of vision.  I eventually fell out of love with the idea of spending my career there, and left.  I was the first rat to leave the sinking ship, and many followed shortly after I left.  Within a year the company’s stock price fell from their IPO to $0.13/share and within 2 years they closed the doors.

I certainly hope that EMBT does not follow this pattern, and their Delphi sales figures seem to indicate that is not the case, but for how long?  I’ve read the XE3 release notes, and although the presentation is tomorrow here in Calgary, there doesn’t seem to be anything worth upgrading for.  Actions for FMX are one of the few features I would like, and IMHO they should have been included in one of the promised updates for XE2.  The real news seems to be that iOS support is being dropped (at least for now), and there is nothing for Android, or Linux yet because EMBT’s new compilers are not ready.  Another year has gone by, and nothing monumental has been produced, and since I’ve seen little in the way of QC fixes, I don’t believe XE3 is the result of CANI (constant and never ending improvement).  They’re also bundling it out of the gate with other third party products in an effort to create the perception of more value.

If you look at some of the decisions made by EMBT as of late, I really begin to wonder.  The EULA fiasco seems to be yet another way that EMBT is alienating their existing customers.  Add to that, not following through on the promised early, often, and regular updates to FireMonkey, not fixing QC reports in a timely fashion, and not concentrating on core functionality that only EMBT can do, (like compilers - object binding is already available in hcOPF, tiOPF, and Bold to name a few), and the picture of a company who has no clear objectives,  leadership and a poor relationship with their user community starts to take form.  If you’re having problems keeping your existing users happy, it’s really hard to attract new ones.  This is not very different than Borland in it’s later days (is EMBT also doing ALM?).  Perhaps too many old Borland employees in key positions came to EMBT through the CodeGear purchase and are reverting to old behaviours.

I hope for the community’s sake I’ve succumbed to the dark side thanks to reading too many of Joylon’s posts :-) but when you start to see negativity seeping into other community bloggers that are normally quite positive it’s hard to keep kidding yourself.  Hopefully, EMBT is not a sinking ship, but rather a submarine (they move faster under water than on the surface, and are very effective in their role by keeping a low profile).  Otherwise, my current Delphi contract might be my last…and that would truly make me sad.

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12 Responses to “A Sinking Ship or a Submarine?”

  1. Cameron Says:

    While I hate to see someone go, the person was working remotely in a job they had been doing for a very long time at least for a developer.

    Remember the much darker days in the later years of Borland ownership when the thought of a new Delphi release wasn’t even on the horizon. At least the current owners put resources behind the product. Remember what MS did to its VB crowd and numerous technologies (DAO, RDO, ADO, WPF, Silverlight, WinForms, DCOM, COM+, etc), remember Delphi 8.0.

    IMO, we should all keep in mind that they have kept alive a beloved product that is still backwards compatible with code from the mid 90s. IMO they should be afforded some slack when they make mistakes, particularly ones they backtrack on.

  2. markus Says:

    To survive, it’s mandatory to attract young people. Without finding Delphi developers on the market, it forces companies to switch to different compilers/IDEs, alltough they are not as good as Delphi.

    To get more revenues, EMB should sale FMX in different versions:
    - Delphi Turbo for Windows + VCL ($ 499)
    - Delphi Turbo for Mac ($ 399)
    - Delphi Turbo for Linux ($ 299)
    - Delphi Turbo for iOS ($ ???)
    - Delphi Turbo FMX upgrade package (including all FMX plattforms) ($499)
    - Delphi Prof. (includes all FMX plattforms) ($ current)

  3. LDS Says:

    But when a submarine sinks, is far worse for everybody on board….

  4. Alister Christie Says:

    While there are some disappointments in XE3, I think it is still a solid release and a step forward. EMBT still seem to be investing heavily in R&D which is a good sign - my main concern is that they seem to be betting their future on FireMonkey (good for new users) and not focusing much on the VCL (not so good for legacy apps).

  5. WarrenP Says:

    I believe that the RAD team has had a very stable core. There have only been a few recent departures (in the last 24 months), and while Barry will probably be missed, I’m sure that the teams in Russia, Japan, and Romania will be able to pick up the slack. I haven’t seen Embarcadero list any positions on their US jobs website, so I’m assuming they feel they have things in hand nicely.

    Yes you’ve been reading too many Jolyon posts in a row.

    Warren

  6. C JOhnson Says:

    Ah, nice to see signs of other local Calgary developers again.

    And yes, the fact that Barry left without anything already lined up - well, many of have done that before, and I think we can all agree it was never just because we were unchallenged - It is deeply concerning regarding EMBT.

  7. markus Says:

    Development done in Romania. Didn’t hear much good thinks from there. It’s just one of the cheapest place in europe for hiring developers.

  8. ObjectMethodology.com Says:

    Delphi is still a good product and with proper focus can take cross platform development to a new level.

  9. Jolyon Smith Says:

    @Alister : Betting the future on FireMonkey is the biggest mistake they are making, as they are using it as a reason/excuse to not get closer to the platforms they are supporting. They think they can abstract everything away.

    But increasingly the platform providers themselves are becoming more and more rigorous about what they will and will not allow on their platforms. The surest way to remain relevant on a particular platform is to use development tools that produce applications that ARE as native as possible, not just with a “pixel perfect” (a completely meaningless, BS marketing term) look-a-like native-ish UI.

    That doesn’t have to mean using the mandated languages and tool chains, as RemObjects have very ably demonstrated with their “Cooper” project, and I doubt this is the last innovation we shall see in this area.

    But given the supposed R&D resources at Embarcadero’s disposal, it’s an indictment of their lack of interest (and/or ability) that it had to come from a smaller, far less well endowed, but clearly far more motivated company.

  10. Sue King Says:

    And maybe it is just time for a change. 6 years is often about the time people look for a change. An article in today’s local paper reports that in Australia, 56% of people have been in their job for less than 5 years.

    The challenge for Embarcadero and their staff surely includes the fact that many of their existing customer base are used to a method of development and applications that are quite different from the way the new market opportunities are developing. IMO, there is a need for both approaches to cover different markets, but providing tools that make sense in both markets must be tricky.

  11. nasser Says:

    Delphi is dead, few jobs, lots of bugs, time to let it go

  12. Inside Embarcadero Says:

    Embarcadero is not investing in Delphi, they are taking the money away to invest in AppWave.

    AppWave has 3 years and the total sales so far is less then 50k.

    Romania will be shutdown, mostly are internal.

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