Setting a trap for your customers

XE8 Update 1 has just been released in two flavours Subscription Update 1 and General Update 1. Subscription Update 1 is only for those on Update Subscription (formerly known as Software Maintenance and prior to that Software Assurance).

The change logs for the two updates are listed here.

Spot the difference?

Subscription Update 1 contains the actual bug fixes. General Update 1 is pretty much just the stuff that was accidentally left out of XE8 RTM plus the critical fix for the iOS8 simulator (all of which I think are already available as hotfixes).

We now have the ridiculous situation where somebody who purchased Delphi XE8 yesterday may not be entitled to the bug fixes that were released today.

I believe there is going to be some sort of amnesty for those who bought XE8 without an Update Subscription to purchase one retrospectively. I strongly urge those people to do so.

Back in 2013 I also strongly urged people to only buy Delphi with maintenance contracts.

“After today, if you buy Delphi without also buying a maintenance you’re a bloody idiot.”

I did soften that message at the bottom of the post.

“I won’t really think you’re a bloody idiot, just not all that well informed.”

After today though, if you buy Delphi without also buying an Update Subscription I’m sorry but you are a bloody idiot.

So you might be a bloody idiot but what does that say about Embarcadero? Can you think of any other company that would allow its customers to dig themselves into a hole like that? Can you think of a quicker way to alienate a customer?

Despite this I do believe a subscription model is the right direction for Delphi, particularly now that Embarcadero has announced that they’re going to release fixes for older versions (the previous 2 versions I think).

You can now be on an update subscription and receive the benefits of bug fixes without incurring the overhead of having to migrate your code to the latest version every 6 months. Instead you’ll have around 18 months after the release of your Delphi version before it becomes unsupported and receives no more bug fixes. This is a real step forward and once we start to see the first of these fixes for XE6 and XE7 Embarcadero should be congratulated for it.

In the meantime though I see the current situation as untenable. Either Update Subscription must be mandatory with every purchase of Delphi (which I am personally fine with) or this policy of withholding bug fixes must be reversed.

Lachlan Gemmell
President of the Australian Delphi User Group
Embarcadero MVP

 

Posted in Misc.
24 comments on “Setting a trap for your customers
  1. Roumen Christov says:

    And even worse. When I tried to install the Update (for users under subscription), it required a restart and run even before Windows shell starts, preventing me to do anything until it finishes (2 hours 30 minutes up to now). Why???
    See: http://chridev.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/embarcadero-xe8-update-1-with-surprise.html

    • lachlangemmell says:

      I haven’t installed the update yet so I haven’t seen the behaviour you’re talking about, but for the past few years all updates have basically been full replacements of the product rather than patching individual files.

      So I can’t agree that’s “even worse”. It just sounds like the usual situation for Delphi updates. Yes you should only apply them when you’ve got some free time on your hands.

    • Oliver says:

      Well it didn’t require an update for me, but it ran for hours and downloaded a huge amount. A bit of warning of the amount would have been handy…

  2. LDS says:

    There’s another company at least that does it, and it’s Oracle. Oracle patches are available only if you pay for support.
    Just, they’re Oracle, and anyway nobody who ever had to deal with Oracle ever thought they are a nice company to deal with (you do only because you have no viable alternatives), and the price tag attached to each product made many people to scramble to move to cheaper alternative as soon as they became available.

    Maybe Embarcadero “bright minds” didn’t realize this way they risk just to delay upgrades by people not willingly to pay for the subscription fee. If you can’t get patches, it’s better to upgrade several months later and buy something with most fixes included – unless Embarcadero keeps on selling only the unfixed RTM. If so, they risk to kill even more upgrades – why should you buy a software with known, unpatched bugs?
    They should sell only the product with the subscription included – but it will make the price comparison with competion even more unfavourable.
    And that’s the biggest issue of Delphi today: it’s managed by marketing people.

    • lachlangemmell says:

      Yes I’m also very interested to see what buying XE8 without Update Subscription gets you today.

      As for being managed by marketing people, I actually think Delphi is marketed quite well these days. I have more of a grievance with the various sales models Delphi has been sold under over the past few years.

      Restricting upgrade pricing to only the last 2 versions was too short a time period for a product with a release cycle of just 6 months.

      Why does the name of the subscription change every few years?

      Remember the confusion over the “Recharge” program? It didn’t need a name and it shouldn’t have been called a program. Cheaper pricing if you’re upgrading from the most recent prior version, that’s all it was. If they’d said that it would have been quickly understood by everyone.

      And why has the “recharge” option now disappeared? There has to be some consistency to the sales model or you just look desperate to your customers.

      They obviously want to go to a subscription only model, they should just bite the bullet and go there today. Keep it simple, make it competitively priced and products should never expire regardless of your subscription status.

      • LDS says:

        Adobe, which still sells Lightroom as a non-subscription option also, is trying to use a different approach: the CC (subscription) version is getting some new features (dehaze and local B/W adjustment, for example) which won’t be made available for the non-CC version. Still, the standalone version gets bug fixes (the RTM had some big issues with its new GPU acceleration), and new cameras and lenses support.
        Sure, it makes the CC version somewhat more appealing, but it doesn’t leave non-CC customers in the dust. Shifting users to a subscription model is not easy, especially those for whom the product is not their primary tool.
        Embarcadero risks to fully alienate those who still use Delphi as a secondary tool, or for hobby projects, and could hardly justify the expense of an expensive subscription model. It’s also a big entry barrier.
        I’m also on the fence and see how well supported previous versions will be, and for how long in reality, and not only in marketing promises 🙂
        For us it became a secondary tool for some Windows GUI stuff only, and it’s difficult to justify its price, especially if “upgrades” are now forced.

    • Michael says:

      Agree on the Oracle comparison;) But in case of Oracle you received CD-ROMs and had to apply patches only in special situations. Oracle 9.2 Patch 8 or Patch 9 …

      There are certain situations you need those patches, because sometimes errors can reproduced only with certain patch sets applied. Aggregate function does return wrong result when the DB admin holds his nose while dancing a rain dance jumping on one feet naked in the office … buah. Those query errors in conjunction with sorting and indexes …

      Windows people are not used to link the DMBS software on a development machine and deploy afterwards… Oracle Update even on Windows is very consistent from the deployment perspective.

  3. Jason Sweby says:

    Absolutely agree. We decided to start taking out the Upgrade Subscription a couple of years ago and it has been well worth the money, allowing us to keep on top of latest changes in both Windows and mobile development. It just makes financial sense.

    EMBT are obviously trying to “encourage” users to take it out by offering incentives to those of us who do. They’re making it feel like an exclusive club at the moment which will alienate those outside of it. As you say, either make it mandatory or reverse the current policy.

  4. Marco says:

    I’m on SA since D7, and I totally agree: I think everybody using Delphi should also be on SA, but, for those who are not, not realease existing bug fixes for a product somebody has bought is beyond belief. I bet Marco don’t agree with this decision either.

  5. apachx says:

    Why XE8 doesn’t support creating android and ios service??? My app can’t work in background when it is closed. But if i want to collect some information about user activity (24h) i must use Java, not XE8! Epic fail ((

    • lachlangemmell says:

      Sorry but I don’t see this as an “epic fail”. It’s a technical limitation resulting from the architecture choices that allow you to write a single source mobile application. An application that like the vast majority of mobile applications doesn’t need to run continuously.

      Perhaps that limitation that can be removed in the future, I honestly don’t know. It is what it is though, just send a feature request through to Embarcadero and in the meantime write some Java.

  6. Robert Horbury-Smith says:

    Well said Lachlan.

  7. Nick Hodges says:

    Lachlan —

    I believe that and update subscription is going to be mandatory going forward.

    Nick

    • lachlangemmell says:

      That’s my preferred option, I think it’s the right way forward for Delphi.

  8. Walter says:

    “Strongly encouraging” customers to buy maintenance subscriptions should not mean effectively making the other “outright purchase” options that you sell essentially non-viable, which is essentially what they’re actually doing.

    E.g. While EMB continues to sell non maintenance release based software licences, then it follows that they should continue to sell these in a way which allows one access to fixes for that major release, not least since having at least one and sometimes more updates for a major release is almost an inevitability, so not allowing “outright” e.g. non-maintenance based buyers access to service packs seems disingenuous and tantamount to a bait and switch.

    Frankly I’m stunned that they’d even try something like this. My knee jerk (gut) response when I became aware of this controversy was like “nah, surely they’d not have done that — surely you would still have access to the update if you bought a full XE8 license!”.

    This was quickly followed by growing stunned disbelief at what appears to be sheer idiocy when I confirmed that yes, they indeed seem to be deliberately setting up customers who buy outright licenses to get less than what they got before.

    One might say this was just an ill considered decision. Maybe so, but then this doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in EMB as an entity that gives sufficient consideration of the impact of their decisions on their customers before instituting changes, and doesn’t therefore inspire confidence in their leadership/stewardship of the Delphi ecosystem.

    • lachlangemmell says:

      No it certainly doesn’t inspire confidence nor have all the other “ill considered decisions” regarding the sales model for Delphi over the past few years (I listed some of them a few comments back).

  9. Viktor says:

    Good point, yet I firmly believe your line:

    After today though, if you buy Delphi without also buying an Update Subscription I’m sorry but you are a bloody idiot.

    should really-really read:

    After today though, if you buy Delphi you are a bloody idiot.

    Embarcadero once again shows they are and always will be more than willing ab/use their customers instead of providing real value products (I’d say “again”, but they never did).

    Disclaimer:
    Angry former Delphi developer, forced to C# by the shrinking ecosystem and job market.

    • lachlangemmell says:

      I disagree. I’m sorry to hear you had to move away to C# but for myself and the many other ADUG members we continue to make a good living as Delphi programmers.

      • Joseph says:

        Please show us some evidence that

        1) The going rate for Delphi developers is >= the average rate for developers overall.

        2) Job listings that demonstrate that the job market for Delphi is on a par with the mainstream computer languages (C++, C#, Java, etc.)

        Otherwise you’re fooling yourself.

        Someone put it like this:

        >I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Delphi, I’m
        >talking career managment. Right now lets say there are 3,502
        >Delphi jobs, and 3,500 Delphi developers in the world.
        >
        >Things seem real rosy right there. Anytime anyone wants a
        >raise, they just negotiate and jump ship. But the scenario is
        >hiding the fact that the only reason there is an opening is
        >because two jokers retired, and there is zero growth going on
        >here.
        >
        >Now, cut 5 of those jobs. 5 measly little jobs. Now those 5
        >developers are fighting over the two remaining openings. Not
        >only is the gravy going to be light for the 2 who actually
        >get the job, but those other 3 are going to be fighting hard
        >for someone else’s chair for at least 6 months. If they’re
        >Delphi fanatics, more like 2-3 years, waiting desperately for
        >something to open up.
        >
        >In a field with zero growth, the balance is always teetering
        >between those two scenarios, favoring the latter. If you
        >happen to lose your job during the latter scenario, all of a
        >sudden the fake growth-like prosperity you experienced during
        >a job hop in the former scenario is put into perspective.
        >
        >Just saying, as a career-oriented person, I’d rather have the
        >.NET experince…250,000 open jobs and growing, 230,000
        >developers and growing. (I’m not sure of the exact numbers).
        >That is a lot of open doors and a lot of options. As opposed
        >to merely 2 options during the best of times, as described
        >before.
        >
        >I know someone who is struggling with this as we speak, and
        >she was still defending her favorite sunset technology and >the opportunities available, and the great pay ($30/hr as a
        >contractor…LOL). She has continued to hang on all these
        >years, digging in until somebody dies or retires and a spot
        >opens up, and blaming the periodic difficulty on recessions
        >and industry dynamics and whatnot.

        By my last count, on America’s most popular tech-only job board, Dice.com, there were about 35 Delphi jobs across the ENTIRE United States of America once you threw out the false matches and duplicates (Delphi hotel management software, Delphi auto parts company, etc.) I live within close distance of New York City, my state’s capital and my state’s largest city. Heck I moved back to this area precisely because of more jobs. Total number of Delphi jobs within 50 miles according to Dice? Zero to one (one IT support position in which “knowledge of Delphi” is one of the vast requirements but it’s not a programming job). Number of C# jobs listed? 771. Python? 947. Java? 2087!

        This is reality. This is now. I don’t know how many these “many other” members are or if Australia has become the last redoubt of Delphi, but to claim that there are many people who can earn a comfortable living using Delphi is something of an extraordinary claim that I think really needs some proof.

        I’ve crunched my own numbers. I studied Delphi questions on Stack Overflow and found that past the first few months of Stack Overflow’s existence, Delphi’s share of questions vs. total has decreased the entire time through last December! No other language I checked did this (except C# because Stack Overflow was originally marketed to that community so it had an disproportionately large share of the questions early on).

        I’ve seen others do studies that showed that Delphi was ranked #34 and #39 in regards to new projects created on GitHub for 2012 and 2013. Delphi was dropped for 2014 so I ran the numbers myself and found it had fallen again to 44th.

        Every other objective measure shows a vanishing to virtually nonexistent Delphi presence in the real world: for instance, no commercially published books in a decade.

        And yet, we continue to have the handful of people who paint an average to somewhat rosy picture of Delphi in the marketplace (one Delphi fan recently saying to me, “Delphi is one of the fastest-growing languages!”). Meanwhile, mention it to any non-Delphi programmer and you’ll get one of two reactions: they’ll either roll their eyes or, if they’re <= 30 years old, ask you want Delphi is. Pascal was last used for teaching AP science in 1998 or 1999 after which they switched to C++ and then Java. You now have an entire generation who have never seen a line of Pascal code.

        That's the other piece of the puzzle. The old-school Delphi developers are getting older. Where do you believe new Delphi programmers are going to come from? They're not learning it in school. They can't get a Delphi book from the book store or library. And they're not going to pay $200 for a starter edition! This is 2015. Kids today download their Ubuntu ISO and then 15 minutes later they have all of the development tools they want, legally, for free.

        Someone wrote that at a user group meeting there was advertising in which people were told to sell their software to this company before they retire and then they'll support it and provide them a stream of retirement income! I'm waiting for funeral planning services to be advertised next. 🙁

        We as users are never going to be able to face the hard questions about Delphi if we pretend things are rosy. If you're making a good living as a Delphi programmer than you're in the same situation as someone making a good living from drinking beer and watching sports: you're extremely lucky and one pink slip away from disaster as you're not going to find that situation anywhere else. Once we accept that reality we can more readily see EMBT's practices in light of "milking the cow" and we can start demanding more urgently that they take practices to expand the user base before it implodes completely.

        Microsoft just made Visual Studio free for 1-5 dev teams who make less than one million dollars. They have a "bare metal" language (C++), managed language (C#), Internet/web languages (ASP.NET/Typescript/Javascript), functional language (F#) and dynamic language (Python) in the box along with a state-of-the-art IDE and professional tools. EMBT's response was to ignore this and RAISE prices (and then require subscriptions!!!). Meanwhile, in America, the last I checked the price for a copy of Delphi Pro plus the C/S pack (you do want to access a database, right?) plus the subscription plus the $30 for a disk and the other things they add in the cart for you is $2,147! That's before you add all of the paid 3rd party components to get features other languages include.

        Delphi has no traction in the enterprise (it's not powering the infrastructure of multinational companies). The last niche of Delphi was the tiny shops. Now those shops can get VS Community for free. Does Delphi provide over $2,147 of value over and above VS? This is CRISIS level and yet the community seems to have let out a collective yawn to what could be a pending extinction event. We've got to face reality and deal with the entire herd of nuclear-tipped elephants in the room. "All is well" is not doing that. Heck, Delphi just appeared on Dice.com's list of "Top 5 Doomed Programming Languages". THAT'S good publicity, isn't it?

        • lachlangemmell says:

          Joseph’s points are all good ones and represent the challenges facing Delphi and Embarcadero. In my opinion though they don’t signify that it’s time to run up the white flag.

          In response to his challenges to show evidence about Delphi rates and job availability, my personal experience is that I’m an employer of contract Delphi programmers in Australia and we pay what I believe is above market rates to our contractors. I don’t have any wider evidence than that sorry and perhaps the situation is different in Australia compared the US, I don’t know.

          Joseph’s comment also prompted replies with other opposing points of view but with tones that were far less than constructive. My apologies to those who spent time writing them but I’m not going to approve them.

          I’m not going to let this degenerate into a “Delphi is dying” argument. To be frank I’ve got better things to do with my time than moderate such a discussion, which really has very little to do with what I was posting about originally.

          Please don’t spend significant time writing replies to this post or the one above it, I’m unlikely to approve any more “Delphi is dying” comments no matter which side of the argument they weigh in on.

  10. lachlangemmell says:

    For those who bought Delphi yesterday without Update Subscription I’m sure that’s what they’re feeling today.

  11. Revanx says:

    My friend upgraded from D2010 to XE7 because they advertised this “recharge” option that would allow you to upgrade to latest version for a more reasonable fee as long as you stay up to date. He now feels cheated as “recharge” no longer has the same meaning.

    • lachlangemmell says:

      I’m not sure what the status of the Recharge program is. I’ve heard it has been discontinued but I’ve also heard it’s still available if you used it previously. Your friend should contact Embarcadero and ask for clarification.

      Update Subscription is a viable alternative to Recharge though. From memory Recharge was cheaper in the short term but long term Update Subscription worked out cheaper than Recharge.

  12. It is now obvious that Embarcadero choice is more about short term profits than build a stable product and trusts against customers. I cannot see another explanation on how it is possible to release an unfinished product with even missing files. This is then fixed in a later update (http://edn.embarcadero.com/article/44470) that customer need to pay for.

    Bugs happen, all developers know that. My team have also have problem with quality and we have change workflow a bit to be more strict to scrum.

    1. Short sprints, 1 – 3 weeks.
    2. Each sprint have only a fixed amount of features and bugfixes that is planned before from backlog.
    3. Each sprint do not need to be deployed live.
    4. No fixed release date to live. We release it when it is ready.

    So Embarcadero should consider a similar strategy. Fixed release dates is really bad for the quality. As it is now customers loose confidence for Delphi. I know a customer that have use Delphi since beginning but the last XE8 was worse than ever. He consider to leave Delphi for other more stable platforms. He have no update subscription.