Tag Archives: mac

What next for Embarcadero Delphi? Roadmap with Mac, Linux support published.

Embarcadero has published an updated roadmap for its Delphi development tools: Delphi, C++Builder and the RAD Studio shared IDE. These tools combine the Object Pascal (Delphi) or C++ language with a visual component library and native code compiler for Windows.

Chief Technical Architect Michael Rozlog outlines four products which are being worked on, including “Fulcrum”, “Wheelhouse”, “Commodore” and “Chromium”. He says work is being undertaken on all of these, so the exact release schedule is not specified. Embarcadero has an annual release cycle for these products so you might reasonably project that Fulcrum is set for release later this year, Wheelhouse for 2011, and Commodore for 2012. Delphi 2010 came out in August 2009.

Delphi “Fulcrum” introduces a cross-compiler for Mac OS X, with the emphasis on client applications. The IDE will run only on WIndows. Rozlog also talks about integration with Microsoft Azure so that Embarcadero can tick the Cloud Computing box.

Delphi “Wheelhouse” adds Linux support, on a similar basis where the IDE runs only on Windows. It also adds a focus on server applications for both Linux and Mac OS X, including support for Apache modules.

Delphi “Commodore” is the 64-bit release, with 64-bit and easier multi-core development on all three platforms. Rozlog also tosses in “Social Networking integration” and “Better documentation”.

2012 is a long time to wait for 64-bit, particularly as the Windows server world is now primarily 64-bit. Embarcadero is promising a 64-bit compiler preview for the first half of 2011, though this will be command-line only.

Delphi “Chromium” is a revamp of the Visual Component Library with a new look and feel and “natural input integration” – location, voice, video motion.

In addition, Rozlog talks about updates for Delphi Prism, which is loosely the Delphi language plus a .NET compiler, and integrates into Visual Studio. Prism 2011 will work with Visual Studio 2010, and includes support for Mono. This extends to working “with MonoTouch to create Apple iPhone ready applications.” Rozlog doesn’t state whether this has been cleared with Apple’s Steve Jobs, who is opposed to use of languages other than Objective C for iPhone or iPad development.

Is Embarcadero doing enough to keep Delphi current? I’m not sure. Delphi is a fantastic RAD and native code compiler for Windows; in the past it suffered when Borland tried to extend it beyond that, to Linux and .NET, distracting development effort from its core role. The risk here is that the Mac and Linux effort may be more of the same. Of course this will be nice to have, though running the IDE on Windows and compiling for Mac is a limitation that means it will not appeal to Mac developers, only to Delphi Windows developers hoping to extend their market. But there are other ways to do cross-platform now –  Silverlight, Flash, web applications – and I wonder if the time for this has passed.

A compiler for iPhone and iPad would now be bigger news, especially since Silverlight and Flash are not available on these platforms, but for this Embarcadero would need to overcome Apple’s cross-compiler restrictions as well as solve the technical problems.

Windows 7 has breathed some new life into Windows client development. I hope Embarcadero is not neglecting areas like great RAD support for features like Jump Lists and thumbnail previews, for the sake of the uncertain cross-compiler market.

There is a discussion of the new Roadmap in the Delphi forums here, and Marco Cantu also comments.

Apple no longer loves Mac developers

At least, that’s the impression you get from its latest move: dropping Mac applications from its Apple Design Awards, presented during the its Worldwide Developers Conference. In 2009 there was an OSX developer Showcase alongside the iPhone Developer Showcase. This year? Well, iPad is here, and three’s a crowd, one had to go.

While the Apple Design Awards are a tiny insignificant detail in the grand scheme of things, this is still a clear pointer for anyone who had not yet noticed, that Apple is keen to focus on its locked-down devices ahead of its computers. It’s better business, because a mobile device yields multiple revenue streams: money from the device sale, money from the mobile contract, money from app sales via the only permitted route, the App Store. There is also an argument that it is better for the user, since a locked-down device is more secure and less likely to be break, though you have to set that against loss of freedom, and the impact of a single-supplier market on price and competition. It also fits with bigger industry trends, where devices are mobile and data is in the cloud, that are shaping the computing landscape.

Silverlight 4 vs Silverlight 3: a little bit faster?

Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie spoke of “twice as fast performance” in the newly-released Silverlight 4, thanks to a new just-in-time compiler.

Performance is a hard thing to nail down. Maybe he meant that compilation is twice as fast? I’m not sure; but I tried a couple of quick tests.

First, I looked at my Primes test. Version 3 running in Windows Vista took around 0.40 seconds (the exact figure varies on each run, thanks to background processes or other factors). I then upgraded to version 4.0. No significant difference, on average over several runs. I used Vista because I’d already upgraded my Windows 7 install.

Next I tried Bubblemark. I maxed it out at 128 bubbles. On Vista with Silverlight 3 I got about 240 fps; on the same machine with Silverlight 4 about 260fps; about 8%.

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Next I tried on an Apple Mac. My Mac Mini is less powerful, though not that bad, an Intel 1.83 Ghz Core Duo. On the Prime test I got 0.54 secs before, and 0.50 secs after the upgrade to 4.0, about 7.5% improvement. On Bubblemark, it was only 24 fps before and after.

I guess the vast difference in graphics performance is also interesting. It is not just Mac vs Windows; the Nvidia GeForce 6800 on the PC is more powerful than whatever is in the Mac Mini.

If anyone can tell me in what respect version 4.0 is twice as fast, I’d be grateful.

Update: prompted by the comment from David Heffernan below, I also tried the Encog Silverlight Benchmark. I used an older core duo laptop, since I am running out of machines to upgrade. I ran the test twice before upgrading, and twice after. Lower is better:

Silverlight 3.0: 22.0

Silverlight 4.0: 12.7

That’s about 42% better, where “twice as fast” would be 50% better, much closer to Guthrie’s claim. I guess it depends what you measure.

Google Chrome usage growing fast; Apple ahead on mobile web

Looking at my browser stats for February one thing stands out: Google Chrome. The top five browsers are these:

  1. Internet Explorer 40.5%
  2. Firefox 34.1%
  3. Chrome 10.5%
  4. Safari 4.3%
  5. Opera 2.9%

Chrome usage has more than doubled in six months, on this site.

I don’t pretend this is representative of the web as a whole, though I suspect it is a good leading indicator because of the relatively technical readership. Note that although I post a lot about Microsoft, IE usage here is below that on the web as a whole. Here are the figures from NetMarketShare for February:

  1. Internet Explorer 61.58%
  2. Firefox 24.23%
  3. Chrome 5.61%
  4. Safari 4.45%
  5. Opera 2.35%

and from  statcounter:

  1. Internet Explorer 54.81%
  2. Firefox 31.29%
  3. Chrome 6.88%
  4. Safari 4.16%
  5. Opera 1.94%

There are sizeable variations (so distrust both), but similar trends: gradual decline for IE, Firefox growing slightly, Chrome growing dramatically. Safari I suspect tracks Mac usage closely, a little below because some Mac users use Firefox. Mobile is interesting too, here’s StatCounter:

  1. Opera 24.26
  2. iPhone 22.5
  3. Nokia 16.8
  4. Blackberry 11.29
  5. Android 6.27
  6. iTouch 10.87

Note that iPhone/iTouch would be top if combined. Note also the complete absence of IE: either Windows Mobile users don’t browse the web, or they use Opera to do so.

I’m most interested in how Chrome usage is gathering pace. There are implications for web applications, since Chrome has an exceptionally fast JavaScript engine. Firefox is fast too, but on my latest quick Sunspider test, Firefox 3.6 scored 998.2ms vs Chrome 4.0’s 588.4ms (lower is better). IE 8.0 is miserably slow on this of course; just for the record, 5075.2ms.

Why are people switching to Chrome? I’d suggest the following. First, it is quick and easy to install, and installs into the user’s home directory on Windows so does not require local administrative rights. Second, it starts in a blink, contributing to a positive impression. Third, Google is now promoting it vigorously – I frequently see it advertised. Finally, users just like it; it works as advertised, and generally does so quickly.

Adobe Flash getting faster on the Mac

According to Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch:

Flash Player on Windows has historically been faster than the Mac, and it is for the most part the same code running in Flash for each operating system. We have and continue to invest significant effort to make Mac OS optimizations to close this gap, and Apple has been helpful in working with us on this. Vector graphics rendering in Flash Player 10 now runs almost exactly the same in terms of CPU usage across Mac and Windows, which is due to this work. In Flash Player 10.1 we are moving to CoreAnimation, which will further reduce CPU usage and we believe will get us to the point where Mac will be faster than Windows for graphics rendering.

Video rendering is an area we are focusing more attention on — for example, today a 480p video on a 1.8 Ghz Mac Mini in Safari uses about 34% of CPU on Mac versus 16% on Windows (running in BootCamp on same hardware). With Flash Player 10.1, we are optimizing video rendering further on the Mac and expect to reduce CPU usage by half, bringing Mac and Windows closer to parity for video.

Also, there are variations depending on the browser as well as the OS — for example, on Windows, IE8 is able to run Flash about 20% faster than Firefox.

Many of us are not aware of these kinds of differences, because we live in one browser on one operating system, but the non-uniform performance of Flash helps to explain divergent opinions of its merits.

I would be interested to see a similar comparison for Linux, which I suspect would show significantly worse performance than on Windows or Mac.