Last week I saw Embarcadero announcing a new version of Delphi. It also included the ability to write iOS and Mac Apps. Being a big believer in cross platform development I had to try it out.
The IDE definitely lacked the Borland bullet proof quality I had come to expect. I had a couple of crashes and I was not doing anything major only tutorial level apps. I miss full Intellisense like support. Although the IDE did have a drag and drop connection to tables like the original Delphi. Plus a cool visual linking tool to map columns to components and properties. I had a SQLite connection to Customers and displaying names in a list box up quickly. Xamarin's Studio cannot touch the speed and ease of creating a simple DB application.
The only trouble I did have with building the DB App was figuring out the SQLite 3 driver was not installed. That was quickly resolved by getting the SQLite3.dll from SQLite. Just make sure you put it in its own folder and add it to your path. If you put it in the XE4 bin directory, XE4 will not launch and throw a vague error about license validation.
If there is a downside on database development. It is the DB tool. I added data and it looked to be there. But then the tool did not commit the changes. Nor was there any indication that the changes where not committed. Building my schema was painful as the tool is very primitive and immature.
Delphi was known for its compiler that put out tight fast code. So imagine my surprise when the XE4 Base app on iPhone was 10mb with only a single splash screen image. The DB app I wrote was a whopping 18mb for a single table using SQLite3. Contrast that with Xamarin's base app clocking in at a svelte 3.7 mb including several images. The Xamarin version also had settings setup in the iPhone settings. The field services app by Xaramin is 6.1mb for a full blown iPhone app.
Performance was fast and snappy. Which leads me to suspect that unlike Xamarin, large chunks of unused code is left in place. I also bet that will change over time. Size is support important as research constantly shows that longer downloads lead to higher abandonment rates.
That was another surprise given Delphi has been out for almost 20 years. The IDE seemed to lack the modern polish of today's tools like Visual Studio and Xamarin's Studio.
I wanted to love it. I really did after all my second programming language was Pascal. It seemed good in reading the site and first blush. Unfortunately, love was only skin deep.
The IDE is usable but slow startup and erradic behavior is not offset by a overwhelmingly better tools or better productivity. In addition, there is the hurdle of learning a new language and framework. If you are using C++ you might find C++Builder a good fit.
In the final analysis Embarcadero's RAD Studio is worth keeping an eye on it. I don't think it is in Xamarin league or quality yet. And therein lies the hope. That Embarcadero can grow and raise the bar for cross platform development. The OS is no longer the platform. The dev tools are the new platform. And more competition should lead to better tools.