It is just over a year since became General Project Manager here, so this is a good time to reflect on what has happened within and outside the company over this period, together with some thoughts to the future.
It has been a good year for RemObjects Software despite various uncertainties in the market place. At the beginning of 2006 we faced some of the usual problems that hit every company as it grows — the need to consolidate and maintain existing products and features while continuing to innovate. At the time, we were having problems matching the promises being made by our Roadmap (www.remobjects.com?roadmap), largely because there was no overall cohesion — work on one product tended to delay another. Accordingly, we devised a coordinated schedule to ensure that ongoing work occurred on all current products. This was phased in and we met our first target at the beginning of July with our first simultaneous release of updates to all products.
Since then we have maintained a two-monthly release schedule and have met every target date. Indeed, we were actually able to release a week early last weekend! For 2007, we intend to continue shipping bi-monthly updates, but more on that below.
In the Delphi world, the year was overshadowed by the uncertainty over the Borland/CodeGear story. We are often asked whether we intend to continue supporting the Win32 product line and the answer is a resounding “yes” — and, as you will see below, we intend to do more than that.
Our current focus consists of three main areas
- Existing Win32 and .NET products (Data Abstract and the RemObjects SDK)
- Cross-platform and .NET migration support (such as Hydra 3 and cross-platform interoperability in RO and DA)
Taking each of these areas in turn, I will talk about achievements during 2006 and plans for 2007 (without giving too much away).
For the existing products, 2006 was mainly a year of consolidation, although there were several highlights. In particular, the Super TCP Channel was extremely well received and we are now considering other new channels. I think many of our customers were surprised by how easy it was to switch to the new channel, a tribute to the underlying architecture. In 2006, Data Abstract saw focus mainly on ease of use and the new templates and wizards definitely help the beginner get started. Next year, we intend to continue on this front, but we also have some exciting new technologies on the drawing board. My lips are sealed though because it is too early to know exactly what features will be available when. I can say, however, that a lot of the preparatory work towards providing a lean and mean client-side dataset to use instead of the standard Delphi dataset has already been done with extremely pleasing performance results.
At the beginning of the year, while tossing around ideas, we thought that providing a bridge between Win32 and .NET would be cool. Allowing developers to taste .NET within existing applications and being able to migrate fully or partially at their own pace just had to be good. Hydra 3.0, released last week, is the result. This product is unique and we are very proud of it. Having said that, we definitely regard it as a starting point only and you will see major enhancements over the coming months.
Chrome is the third prong of our focus. Our mission with Chrome is very simple: provide a leading edge compiler that supports all the latest functionality coming out of the Microsoft labs, thus allowing you to experience the new ideas as swiftly as possible. This has meant regular trips to Redmond, where we have been able to work in integration with the new technologies with the help of the Microsoft developers. If you are a VSIP partner, you may be interested to see the “Visual Studio Form Designer Integration” article which we wrote for Microsoft. It is 30 pages long and published as part of the Visual Studio SDK. For 2007, we will continue improving and evolving the Chrome product and a great deal of work has already been done for version 2.0 (Joyride). Many customers already know this, as we have a very strong committed set of beta testers who see the progress almost on a weekly basis. For example, we are actively working with LINQ and indeed, so are some of our testers.
Although, we focus on three separate areas, they are, in fact, very complementary. For example, we provide a Delphi Hydra sample that displays a managed plugin written in Chrome using .NET 3.0 and WPF! Whatever way you want to maintain and grow your existing applications, we intend to provide the tools to let you choose how to do it. Being able to incorporate managed code into existing Win32 applications provides you with extreme flexibility.
During the past year, there have been other changes within RemObjects Software that are worth mentioning here. First, we increased the size of the development team. Some of the results of this should already be apparent (the number of change items per two months is growing steadily), but you haven’t seen the full benefit yet. It takes time to train up new people to adhere to company standards and fit into the team. We have an excellent team and I’m expecting great things over the coming year.
Next, I would like to talk about support, which can be a thorny subject for small companies. During the year, we revised the way that we provide support, so that it is now managed as a project in its own right. S, and support items are now subject to the same triage and prioritization as other development items. Although this may have slowed some individual answers, it has meant that our overall service has improved greatly, allowing us to provide help where it is most needed. One thing I should mention here is that it will help us greatly (and indirectly benefit all customers) if you choose to post a question on the newsgroup OR send an email, but please never do both. No matter how we receive bug reports, they go into the same database and doubled reports just cost us time in recognizing and handling duplicates. Thank you for your cooperation on this.
Changes have also occurred on our website, with the introduction of our new DevCenter (available at www.remobjects.com/devcenter)). DevCenter provides a portal to all the latest resources available and one centralized place to see new articles, videos and FAQs as we produce them. Customers who have purchased products from us recently will already have seen our new shopping cart system, which we have brought in-house. This has enabled us to produce a more personalized shopping experience. At the same time, the revised My RemObjects page (see www.remobjects.com/myro – login required) allows you to see the exact status of your licenses and provides easy access to downloads, licenses and upgrade options.
Documentation is another thorny subject, especially for me. During 2006, we have made some considerable progress, notably with the complete rewrite of the RemObjects SDK and Data Abstract help files, but we know and acknowledge that this is our weakest area. We do intend to improve, though. , and this is myMy personal goal for 2007 is to spend more time on documentation. In 2006, my time was virtually consumed by project management, but that should change now as the majority of my work in that area has been automated using our internal BugClient application (it sure helps having products like RO/DA/HY at your disposable for implementing such a project). If you are interested, see the blog series I’ve just started which will describe how the automation was achieved (GHOST_URL/blogs/mikeo/).
So, what will 2007 bring for RemObjects Software? The first event on our radar is our internal technical conference being held in Berlin early next month. It is worth noting that the Super TCP Channel and the Hydra 3 cross-platform technology were conceived at a similar conference at the beginning of this year.
During the latter part of 2006, we have been developing our ROFX products in two parallel versions: 4.0.x and 5.0. We have already done a great deal of preparatory work for 5.0. In our conference, we intend to schedule the major items over 2007 and beyond so that we can provide you with a steady stream of enhancements every two months.
Nothing is finalized though and this is the perfect time for you to tell us how you would like any or all of our products to develop. We can’t promise that we will adopt all ideas though, but we can promise they will be given serious consideration. In particular, we are really interested in the type of help needed with expanding or moving your Delphi projects to .NET.
Another thing we will be discussing at our conference is whether ROFX 5.0 will continue to support Visual Studio .NET 2003. We are almost decided that it won’t, because it appears that the vast majority of .NET users have moved to .NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005 by now. But if we hear from a significant number of customers that you are unable to upgrade to VS2005, we may decide to keep VS2003 support (reluctantly, as this would cost us time and prevent us from using shiny new technology).
Before I finish, I would like to share some personal thoughts about our industry as a whole. I see a lot of comments about “why do we want or need .NET” and similar negativity. It so reminds me of when Windows took over from DOS. At that time there were naysayers, albeit at a lower level because the benefits were more obvious and available quicker. I believe though that the various technologies coming from Microsoft (WPF, .NET3, LinQLINQ, Cider etc) will soon have the same impact. Once there are some glossy (or glassy perhaps) applications out there, today’s user interfaces will be seen to be lacking. That is why I’m pleased to be working at a company like RemObjects, which embraces the new and provides its customers with early adoption of new technologies. End of my personal soapbox.
Well, that’s about it for my first report. Have you found it useful or interesting? If so drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) with comments or suggestions. The more feedback I get, the sooner I will write another one.
Finally, I wish you all happy holidays and a prosperous 2007.
General Project Manager