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Cross-platform Delphi is Back

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Delphi was a strong contender on the Windows platform for many years. It combined the rapid application development style of VB with a far more powerful language. But when the .NET initiative was launched, Delphi lost its way. The Win32 compiler for Delphi was neglected while Borland developed their .NET offerings. Delphi 8 had no support for Win32 development and the .NET version was not compatible with pre-existing programs. This, combined with stability issues, caused most developers to largely ignore Delphi 8 and 9.

With their recent purchase by Embarcadero Technologies, Delphi has a new focus. The core product, Delphi 2009, is being focused squarely on Win32 development. Meanwhile, recent changes in Microsoft's licensing program have given the .NET version of Delphi a new outlet.

Last year we reported that Microsoft was making Visual Studio free to independent system vendors. This version, called Visual Studio Shell, can be used as the basis for any development suite. Embarcadero is leveraging it for what they call Delphi Prism.

Delphi Prism gives Embarcadero something that Borland didn't have, time. By using Visual Studio Shell as a starting point, they can compete with Microsoft's professional development tools without having to make up for all those lost years.

This allows Embarcadero to focus on areas where Microsoft is weak, cross-platform development. Using Visual Studio and Delphi Prism, developers can write programs that specifically target non-Microsoft operating systems.

Out of the box, Delphi Prism offers project templates for Gtk#, WinForms on OS X, Cocoa for OS X/Tiger, and Cocoa for OS X/Leopard. Tim Anderson adds,

The recommendation is to run Visual Studio in a VM on a Mac, since Windows cannot run Cocoa applications. And you’re going to be using Apple’s Interface Builder; there’s no GUI designer in Visual Studio itself.

This is not the first time Delphi was offered as a cross-platform development tool. At one point there was a project called Kylix, which supported the Linux operating system. But between its high price tag and questionable stability, not to mention being subtlety incompatible with Delphi source code, it did not last very long.

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