Review of the Mobile Preview Webinar


I watched the RAD Studio Mobile Preview Webinar today.  Anders O, JT Thomas, Marco, and Sarina DuPont did a very nice job presenting the product, including some pretty cool demos.  Here are my thoughts in my ever-present bullet form.  Everything here is from notes I took during the webinar.

First, the webinar was today, and it hasn’t been put up on the web for general consumption yet.  They said that would happen soon.  I’ll make sure to point to it when it is up.
Overall, this is very, very impressive.  I really thought it was cool.  It appears that Embarcadero has really made developing for iOS easy and very “Delphi-ish”.  I don’t own any Apple products, but I must confess that this tool might make me jump on the bandwagon (though I am most looking forward to the Android side of things – see below….)
The IDE looked great.  The designer works just like the Windows designer you know and love. They showed using FireMonkey in a very nice looking designer with a cool graphic of an iPhone.  You can even choose a “palette” of iPhone 4, iPhone 5, or an iPad and the designer adjusts and looks just like the device.  You can rotate the designer to see how things will render at any orientation. 
The styling and controls looked very “iPhone-ish” to me.  I’m not an expert, but it looks like they’ve gone to a large effort to make an iOS-based Fire Monkey app look perfect on an iPhone.  I couldn’t tell exactly how native controls entered into things, but they definitely mentioned that the calendar control and the list box control were native controls.   There were countless styles for the buttons, tabs, and other controls that made everything look like apps on the iPhone/iPad are supposed to look. 
This question got asked about 400 times, and the team was very patient in answering it each time.  You need a Macintosh computer to develop and deploy on iOS. I repeat, you need a Mac.  There is no way around this. This isn’t a technical requirement – it’s the rules according to Apple.  They only allow deployment using a Mac and xCode, and so Embarcadero has to honor that.  Further notes in this area:

This doesn’t work like Kylix did — the RAD Studio IDE runs in Windows and Windows only.  It can run in BootCamp or Parallels on the Mac.
They said that a MacMini will work fine.  I don’t know much about OS X, but they said that you’ll need at least Lion to run things.
Debugging happens via a server on the mac that talks to the IDE over TCP/IP.  You debug in the IDE (on Windows) just like you normally do.
Yes, you can develop in Windows on the Mac via a virtual machine, and deploy and run in the same Mac. 
You can’t run the simulator on Windows as Apple doesn’t have a simulator that runs on Windows.
You can’t run OSX in a virtual machine on Windows because Apple doesn’t allow that – you can only run OSX on Apple hardware.
Sarina deployed both to the simulator and her actual device (though her device was emulated on the screen by an app designed to do that – she did hold it up to take a picture and you can see that in the presentation…….)

Database access was interesting and appeared to be very much what we’d expect it to be.

Marco demonstrated a clientdataset hooking  up to a local file.  Then he demoed the dbExpress controls talking to both SQLite and Interbase ToGo locally – that is, to the DB itself residing on the device.  Or at least that was how I understood it.
Having TClientDataset on mobile devices is very cool.  I presume this means that the providers will work and allow you to talk to a DataSnap server.  That could be very powerful and cool.  I can see this being a cool thing for sharing apps between phones and the web.
No mention of how AnyDAC will enter into things.

A bunch of people asked about Android development, including me.

JT said that it would be available later this year.  Same with C++ for both iOS and Android.
He said the goal was to have the same exact FireMonkey code compile and run on iOS and Android.  That would be very, very cool.  The question that I had was about styling – but I presume there is a way to dynamically change the styling depending on the OS.  I hope so, as I don’t want an Android app looking like an iOS app, or vice-versa.
There were a lot of folks asking about this – I personally am really looking forward to doing Android development with Delphi.  A lot.

The compiler is Embarcadero’s – no more FreePascal involved anywhere in the tool chain.
Pricing, packaging and all that kind of stuff will come later.  You can get on the beta if you are an XE3 customer.  Just another reason to buy Delphi XE3. 
Did I mention that you need a Mac to develop for iOS?
Further thoughts:

I’m anticipating that there will be many Delphi-built apps showing up on Apple’s AppStore in the coming year, including some cool DataSnap-based apps.
The mobile development space has finally come alive, and Delphi’s right there on the leading edge.  Xamarin has recently announced a cross-platform solution for Android and iOS, but they don’t provide a UI framework.  FireMonkey is right there with everything you need.  This should be a very compelling and competitive offering from Embarcadero.    And they appear to be doing this just at the right time as things really get hopping in the mobile tooling marketplace. 
For once, Delphi will be doing something that Microsoft will never, ever do.  Microsoft will never provide tools for developing for iOS and Android.  Or at least I can’t conceive of them ever doing it.  So this is green fields for Delphi.  Competitors are broader and smaller – HTML5 and JavaScript (for which they have an excellent tool in HTML5 Builder) and Xamarin appear to be the main competitors at this point.  This is a nice change and a great opportunity for Embarcadero to get away from the head-to-head competition with Microsoft. 

Again, I was very impressed overall.  The demos were pretty cool, FireMonkey looks really good on the iPhone, and the database access looks like it’s exactly what we Delphi developers would expect.  This is a cool opportunity for Delphi developers.

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