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BorCon: Delphi 8 targets .NET

SAN JOSE, CA -- As Microsoft steers Windows development away from Win32 into a future of managed code running on the .NET Framework, Delphi developers are about to find themselves stuck with a skill set for building applications based on what the Redmond software giant calls "aging" technology -- unless they picked up a copy of the latest version of Borland Software's venerable Delphi IDE at its annual developer conference, held this week (Nov. 1-5) at the San Jose Convention Center.

Delphi 8 for the Microsoft .NET Framework, released at the Scotts Valley, Calif.-based toolmaker's 14th annual BorCon event, is designed to enable Delphi developers to create .NET Framework-based applications and migrate existing Win32 Delphi applications to the .NET Framework.

"Microsoft has been very clear," Simon Thornhill, VP and GM for the .NET Solutions Group at Borland, told Programmers Report. "They're going to all managed code. There is an end in sight for Win32. If you want to program as a first-class citizen, you will be moving now to .NET. We're helping Delphi developers to make that transition."

Delphi 8 features support for all .NET Framework classes, Thornhill said, including support for Microsoft's ASP.NET Web Forms and XML Web services, Windows Forms, Microsoft ADO.NET, a .NET implementation of Borland's Visual Control Library (VCL) and Borland Data Provider (BDP) for database applications. Thornhill calls it "a turbocharge for Delphi."

"This opens up a much larger world for Delphi developers," he said. "You can now develop for the latest and greatest Microsoft Windows .NET platform. You can tell your customers, 'I can take full advantage of the .NET framework, I can give you the benefits of managed code, all using my skills as a Delphi developer.' This is a great opportunity for developers to upgrade their Delphi investments for .NET."

Based on Object Pascal, Delphi first appeared in 1995 and offered Windows developers an object-oriented, visual-programming approach to application development, as well as an alternative to Microsoft's Visual Basic. It quickly drew a fiercely loyal community of users, many of whom, Thornhill explained, were drawn to it as a means of rapidly developing applications.

"There are more than 500 Delphi component developers out there," Thornhill said. "Delphi has very good component developers, and they have led the way in the market. Visual Basic is just starting to catch up. So, for component development, the state of the art was always Delphi. But you could only share those components with other Delphi developers. That left all these other Windows developers, who couldn't join in on the productivity enhancements of Delphi. With Delphi for .NET, you are now building .NET components, so you can go out and share those with the larger .NET world. A Delphi component builder in the past could sell to the 2 million or so other Delphi developers. If you're a Delphi component builder today, you can go sell it to the 7 million-plus .NET developers."

Delphi 8 also features Borland's new Enterprise Core Objects (ECO) technology for design-driven development. First introduced in C# Builder, ECO automates several steps that are manual in the MDA (Model Driven Architecture) process.

ECO is a key component of Borland's Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) strategy, which seeks to help organizations align business requirements and software capabilities.

The shift from Win32 to the .NET Framework is fast becoming a serious issue for Windows developers. According to a recent survey conducted by industry analysts at the Gartner Group, by mid-2004 most mainstream organizations anticipate undertaking serious efforts to migrate Win32 and COM applications (another "aging" technology) that are expected to be in use beyond 2007 to the Microsoft .NET Framework.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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