Posted by Martin Zinaich on June 19, 2016.
What propels a company into higher markets has always been a mystery to me. Often it does not seem to require having the better product. When looking at the origins of some of my favorite companies, they certainly had the better products but failed to capitalize on their strengths. Take Word Perfect versus Word, or Novell versus Microsoft, or Pascal versus every other language.
Ok, I have a bias – I like Blaise Pascal and the language named after him. From Pascal to Turbo Pascal to Delphi (Object Pascal) – I have been a fan. Turbo Pascal was a Borland product then moved to a full object oriented language called Delphi. Embarcadero acquired Delphi and after that, Delphi was never the same.
The language has come a long way and Embarcadero is starting to deliver the ability to port code to multiple mobile platforms from a single base. That is the good news. The bad news is they have gone insane with their licensing models in recent years. Moreover, they have been toying with their base of developers in the process. If you are a Delphi commercial coder these changes are minor and of little impact. If you are a hobbyist or open source developer these changes are devastating. If you are young and new to programming, these changes will make certain you never consider Delphi.
It used to be you would purchase Delphi and see minor updates throughout the year free. You could get yearly maintenance but you did not really need it. Updating from one major version to another was a minor cost, usually happening yearly and life was good. Then all of a sudden, a few years back, Embarcadero stopped doing yearly updates. They started doing major updates on the hour or so it seemed. That also meant they stopped supporting older versions. If Embarcadero released XE7 and you had XE6, forget any meaningfully updates. If you did not stay on annual maintenance, you were out of luck; you would have to buy a brand new version as if you never owned an Embarcadero product.
The bean counters had it all calculated out perfectly. If you bought maintenance or had to rebuy a new version, you were pretty much paying the same amount. I once bought Delphi XE-Noon-Saturday-Release when it first came with the ability to develop for mobile devices. Embarcadero said the first release would only support iOS but soon coming updates would add support for Android. Therefore, I bought the Noon-Saturday release. Three months later the 1PM-Monday-Release was available. This release was not a minor update! No this was a Major update. To get Android support you either had to be on yearly maintenance or you had to buy a new copy yet again! You could also wait and hope they would offer a “Special” upgrade. Embarcadero “Specials” are really special as we will see.
I purchased XE4 three months prior to XE5 being released. No upgrade option available when XE5 came out. Nope, you had to buy a new copy. So for doing mobile development – this is what that mess looked like for a hobbyist or someone new wanting to learn Delphi:
In essence, it cost $2297 to get to XE5 mobile development in the span of three months! Therefore, Embarcadero would say that is why you need to purchase Software Maintenance. Taking the same example, we get the following:
Ok, you save $350 getting maintenance, but you are locked into that maintenance year after year. Does Embarcadero really expect the hobbyist or new programmer to shell out $450 yearly! There are tons of free development packages in other languages, why would the younger generation ever start coding in Delphi Object Pascal. It is true there are a couple of free Delphi options but they lack the mobile aspects. Embarcadero does offer an extremely crippled “Starter” edition, which eliminates most of the Delphi features, including mobile development.
All of that leads me to the most recent Embarcadero “Special”. As usual, there is always a twist. I should know better but they got me again! I received an offer to upgrade to Delphi 10.1 Berlin, including a “free” Mobile Add-On Pack. I went to the site and saw this:
Now seeing the words Free and “available for owners of versions XE4 or later” would normally infer Upgrade, right? Wrong! If you go to order and check-off the Upgrade, the Free Mobile Add-On pack stays in the list of items you are ordering. Some would assume you are getting the Mobile Add-On pack as the offer, web site and order form states. Wrong!
If you are used to Embarcadero tricks you are overly cautious. You see the “3” footnote next to Upgrade so you certainly check that out:
Footnote 3 does not, in any way reference the Mobile Add-On pack. It does not state the Add-On pack is not included with an upgrade:
On the order form there is a little blue “I” next to the upgrade pack. So let us assume you even check that and see:
If you are wise enough after reading the Ad, the order form and the footnote to think you still had bases to cover, you would be right. In the T&C’s do we see a clear line stating the Free Mobile Add-On pack is NOT available when upgrading? No! We do see language that states it is only valid on new user products. Well this is a new release and I was solicited with an offer of a Free Mobile-Add-On Pack – so what does this really mean. Who knows?
I ordered and did not get the Free Mobile Add-On Pack. Wow, what a surprise! I called and Embarcadero pretty much told me I was an idiot for thinking there was a Free Mobile Add-On pack if I upgraded. However, they did offer to sell me the Free Mobile Add-On Pack. Here is how that works out:
So, a total cost difference between buying new and upgrading of $6. Yes, you can save a whopping $6 by upgrading!
What kind of crazy message is that sending to developers or new people considering Delphi? I detailed all of this for Embarcadero and sent it to Sales who sent it to Marketing. I suggested this kind of confusion is done on purpose. Sales told me I can rest assured it was probably just a mistake on the web site. Sales also noted I was not alone in my confusion or frustration. Here is how I know it is done this way on purpose. Many days after my communication with Sales, who did hear back from Marketing (Marketing did thank me for pointing all this out and then asked me to have a nice day) – the Embarcadero web site remains unchanged, I have to assume on purpose.
Here is what, in my opinion, Embarcadero did with this latest “Special”
What Embarcadero does not get is this licensing model is broken for the hobbyist or entry-level programmer. It is suited only for the commercial developer. Delphi has a very small market share and Embarcadero seems content to keep it that way, concentrating more on milking current developers as much as possible. However, by ignoring the entry-level programmer and hobbyist they are in fact ignoring their future. Embarcadero needs a better model to separate full commercial institutions from entry-level / hobbyist developers. The latter is what grows the base that then builds the former.