was the top programming language used to develop desktop applications for Windows during the 1990s. The highlights of Delphi included its clear syntax and easy to read code, an IDE that really worked for the RAD concept, support for complete Windows API, ability to use third party DLLs and create low level code, great documentation and a large community.
At that time, Borland was Delphi’s master. The company was unable to help the programming language grow to its complete potential in tune with changing market requirements. Later Delphi versions, and there have been quite a few, didn’t quite take off though some versions were appreciated by a fast dwindling group of developers.
As languages such as Java, Visual C++, and gained momentum, they overtook Delphi in custom application development. Despite Delphi code having a smaller app footprint, lack of talent, resources, and closer deadlines began to drag the Object Pascal based language down.
A large part of Delphi’s talent pool was pulled by Microsoft. Though Delphi was still ascribed to be an excellent tool for Win32 apps, the problems it suffered from – lack of attention to Linux and other growing platforms, no mobile/Windows CE support, lack of documentation, lack of open source information, lack of support for 64-bit apps, inefficient scaling, lack of creative design elements – did not get adequate support from the creators.
Embarcadero Technologies purchased Delphi in 2008. It was perhaps the best thing that happened for the language’s continued survival in the programming world. Embarcadero recently released the latest version of Delphi – Delphi XE2 that addresses many of the issues with previous versions. There’s support for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows apps; cross-platform implementation of code (Windows and Mac OS X); native app development for iPhone, , and ; Delphi’s RAD Cloud data and application services for multiple client platform connectivity; and LiveBindings for connecting the data source to any VCL or FireMonkey user interface or graphic element. FireMonkey is the new platform that allows you to develop visually stunning interactive data rich games for PCs, Mac, and mobile devices.
This is great progress for Delphi but some of the new, touted features work with limitations. FireMonkey delivers great results but it is not backwards compatible with VLC-based UIs. Developers must relearn UI development as the app treats components differently from previous tools. However, all this works for Delphi, leading to great visuals. FireMonkey’s UI elements look the same across platforms but not all portions of the VCL are available on Mac, and there are some features that will not be directly supported on Apple’s devices.
Delphi XE2 proves Delphi’s capabilities as a serious consideration for business application development. However, Embarcadero and Delphi’s greatest challenge will be to win trust votes from corporate companies that have relied on Microsoft technologies or Java since many years now, and also to build a large community of developers. Till then, Delphi will continue to be marginalized in the ‘programming languages for enterprise apps‘ category.
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