Delphi, why won’t it just die?

Over the years, I've programmed in a lot of different languages. Along the way, languages have come and gone in typical "Flavour of the Month" style, while others that have been predicted to be flavour of the month, have become very mainstream;  Java being one of them.

I used to do a lot of work in FoxPro and it was used extensively in almost every company and government department in New Zealand, but then Microsoft bought it and firmly placed its boot over its head knee deep in water and it slowly, desperately, died.  Even then it was flailing about so hard that Microsoft was forced to simply state, "No More FoxPro! Last version ever!"  in about 2007 despite having millions of followers.


For a long while, Borland seemed to be doing the same thing, albeit not quite so openly, nor so firmly. The effect nearly had Delphi disappearing from the tech language.  It was true to say that 90% of my income was from FoxPro contracts, but I haven't had one of those in probably more than 15 years now. I could also say that a few years later, 90% of my income came from Delphi, but again, I have had no Delphi work for the past 10 years.

Many industry commentators moan that Delphi is no longer a serious contender, saying that .NET is the future. While Delphi did come out in a .NET version (that I didn't use), I suspect that .NET just didn't fit the Delphi psyche. Embarcadero purchased Delphi in 2008 and set about trying to resurrect it without a lot of success, .NET was too ensconced on the scene and “that language”, Visual Basic, was now able to actually build real programs like a Pro.

So why then is Delphi still around? Its original theory of it being a good and cheap language has well and truly been squashed with the exorbitant prices being charged, so what does it hold that can’t be delivered better by other languages.

Well, that’s a very hard question to answer. One reason of course, is the sheer amount of code around. You see Delphi has one advantage over all other languages – it’s both highly productive, and it’s a real pleasure to use. Being highly productive has seen single Delphi developers produce software that would otherwise require a team of 5 developers. I’ve been in a team of 3 developers that out programmed a corporate wide application by having it up and running in a few months compared to another team I know of over 30 Java developers who 18 months later still had not produced their application. I know also that whenever I’ve had to use other languages for any period of time, it’s a wonderful surprise again to find that using Delphi, you are no longer struggling with the language or the development platform. It just works.

By being highly productive for small teams and single developers, Delphi has spawned a number of development shops that simply could not survive if they had to change to use another language.
I’d love your thoughts.