CodeGear has released a new Delphi roadmap. This is very good news, as the community long awaited some future plans. Kudos to Jim the new CEO for going over accountants resistance in this direction, and Nick and others for keeping pushing it. The roadmap tells us a lot about Highlander, the coming version of Delphi (originally planned earlier, but delayed to get Win32-based Delphi 2007 out of the door).
This is a new version of Delphi expected this year. First of all, Highlander is mostly a .NET release. With the latest version focusing on Win32, this is understandable. However, I hope at least some minor Win32 features creep in. Anyway, on the plus side we have improved ASP.NET (particularly in its database sided, with BDP phased out in favor of dbExpress 4 for .NET), VCL.NET (with support for Vista and, notably, ECO). A lot of improvements are planned for ECO, plus there is a brand new database technology SQLDataStore (previously known as nDataStore). This is, in short, a complete managed database, you can deploy on any .NET platform. A little disappointing is the limited support for generics in this release, but maybe this is a good idea (read along...).
Not in the roadmap, but from comments by Nick, we also know that "Win32 in Highlander will be a non-breaking release".
Tiburon and Beyond
Next year, we should get another release, or maybe two. Tiburon (first half of 2008) should provide parameterized types, or generics, in the Delphi language... both in .NET and in Win32. This is good news. If they are delaying the .NET version to make sure it is complaint with the Win32 one, I second the delay. Even more important for the Win32 side is a Unicode VCL. The VCL will also have "Ribbon controls, theming, skinning". Good to know.
Tiburon should deliver also significant IDE enhancement (including
Subversion support). I'm also quite curious about the "BDE replacement based on SQLDataStore". Considering how many developers are still on the BDE, this is good news. However, if this required .NET for deployment, this might stop a few users.
Native 64-bit support, including full VCL for Win64, and multi-core/multi-threaded development are not expected until a later version, and PDA development is only a technology under consideration. Nick stated that the time frame seen on the roadmap is misleading, and the native Win64 support is not so far away. This is certainly disappointing a few developers, but CodeGear has to give priority to its limited resources, and it looks to me they are doing a good job. Yes, the roadmap doesn't fit perfectly for any Delphi developer including myself, however as long as it is good enough for the majority of the users... and I think it is.
My and Other Complaints
My complaints? Beside wanting every single feature today (the exact same reason for which we think our own customers are crazy) I was hoping for an earlier adoption of Unicode and a little more on the Compact Framework side, considering this was "previewed" one year ago. One barely noticeable thing I'm happy about? Under "Cross-compilation to other operating systems" I read "Kylix is not dead"!
Of course, community comments vary. Beside the classic "I'm switching to [fill in name] unless you support..." type, others are interesting. I read "All CodeGear lacks is what developers want to see today". Maybe top-notch developers who want to play with the technology. Most Delphi developers still on Delphi 7 want simple and backward compatible features, this is what I get in all the training and consulting sessions I do. Not that I don't like new stuff for sure, but Delphi is not doomed even without a 64bit compiler today. In fact, another developer contends all we need is a "fast stable IDE", not many new features! Interesting point.
You can read a lot of comments in this thread.
Again, kudos to all people in CodeGear for publishing the roadmap (any roadmap is better than no roadmap!), for the balance I see (and remember, better have few features in a solid product than the opposite!), and... long live Delphi!