FireMonkey: Embarcadero's New Enterprise RIA Tool

The app development toolmakers at Embarcadero Technologies say they want to bring the rich-user-experience enhancements of consumer software to business sectors in which that particular evolution has been somewhat lacking.

"We're talking about sciences, medical, manufacturing automation, finance, GIS communications -- industries that have really been missing out on a lot of the advances that have been happening in user experience and the breakup of platforms in the last four or five years," explained Michael Swindell, Embarcadero's senior vice president of marketing and product management. "Our goal is to bring the rich user experience and platform flexibility into those markets."

Enter FireMonkey, Embarcadero's new application platform and development framework for building business apps with "ultra-rich" user experiences. "You can think of it as RIA for business," Swindell said, "but with native code benefits, rapid application development (RAD), and enterprise class connectivity, data access and services."

The CPU- and GPU-powered FireMonkey is designed to allow enterprise developers "to create visually-engaging, native applications" for Windows, Mac and iOS. The platform is completely native to those three OSes; the applications, databases and animations are CPU-powered; the user interface (UI), graphics and effects are GPU-powered. The platform/framework supports the rapid development of HD and 3D apps with native performance, even when they combine animation and image effects with enterprise-level database connectivity and interactive data visualization. It can also build the apps for both Amazon's and Microsoft Azure's cloud services.

"We've seen a lot of our customers moving in this direction over the past couple of years," Swindell says, "but there haven't really been any out-of-the-box frameworks or platforms, so they've had to do it on their own with open source libraries and by writing their own internal code, which is not terribly efficient."

FireMonkey is a component of Embarcadero's RAD Studio XE2 software development tool suite, a new version of which was just launched. This new release comes with "the most extensive feature upgrades in more than a decade," the company said. Among those upgrades: new versions of Embarcadero Delphi, C++Builder, Embarcadero Prism and RadPHP. There's also full Delphi 64-bit Windows support, Mac OSX and iOS support with the new FireMonkey rich business application platform, and iOS and Android Web and mobile app development with RadPHP XE2.

Embarcadero's products have tended to deliver platform-oriented user experiences and complete application stacks, from UI to DB access to services connectivity. FireMonkey allows developers to add 3D capabilities, scalable vector graphics, image processing, and effects and animations to data- and hardware-intensive enterprise apps.

The FireMonkey platform/framework comes with hundreds of pre-built components and RAD visual development tools. Its LiveBindings allow users to connect any type of data or information to any FireMonkey user interface or graphics objects. Users can bind live data to standard UI controls or to HD and 3D graphics to create "new ways to visualize any type of data," the company says.

As an enterprise product, FireMonkey needed, of course, to support Windows development, but Swindell says the enterprise infiltration of Macs was significant enough for the company to support Macs and iOS out of the box.

"We've been seeing Mac machines enter organizations a lot like Linux did 10 years ago," he said. "You walk around the organization and you say, 'Wait a minute. How did we end up with 30 percent of our desktops running Apple hardware?' Also, companies are putting iPads and Android devices in their 2012 budgets now, especially for their sales force and field reps. They want to extend their business and enterprise application out to these devices, but they don't have a great solution for that. Add to all of that the fact that CIOs are grappling with a workforce that's increasingly bring their own devices. We think supporting Windows, Mac and the mobile devices with a common platform helps to solve a lot of problems."

Trial downloads are available on the company's download page.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].