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Embarcadero gets touchy with Windows 7 RAD

Big niche or mass market?

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Embarcadero Technologies hopes to exploit touch- and gesture-based input in Windows 7 with the latest release of its Delphi and C++ Builder RAD tools.

The company has released its Embarcadero RAD Studio 2010, which it said offers rapid development of interfaces for applications using a touch-enabled component framework.

Embarcadero highlighted deployment of Delphi and C++ Builder applications in GUI, tablet, touchpad and kiosk applications. It said the RAD suite and framework would work on Windows 7, in addition to Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Other features in RAD Studio 2010 include, for the first time, support for the open-source Firebird database. Drivers for Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and MySQL have been updated, and there are improvements to the tools' DataSnap framework for JSON and REST.

Michael Swindell, vice president of products, Embarcadero, said in a statement that affordable hardware and demand from users for natural input on netbooks, touchpads, and kiosks are outpacing touch-enhanced application availability.

He claimed Delphi and C++Builder 2010 would let developers target those "using fewer resources and minimizing re-work". That means they could use the suite's rapid-application capabilities and their existing skills in Delphi and C++Builder.

"Delphi and C++Builder 2010 make the transition to new technologies, like touch, seamless for developers," Swindell said.

It's a big bet, and one not guaranteed to pay off in a significant way for the company.

Microsoft's certainly talked up touch and gesture capabilities of Windows 7, having exposed APIs to enable things like scrolling up and down a page in Internet Explorer or Word by touching a finger to the screen.

As Reg writer Tim Anderson's noted, though, the experience lags Microsoft's claim that in Windows 7 it's made "touch a first-class way to interact with your PC alongside the mouse and keyboard".

Unless there's some radical expansion in Windows' touch and gesture capabilities out of the box, this type of input in Windows will likely remain a domain-specific experience limited to vertical sectors and is unlikely to become as ubiquitous as, say, the iPhone touch experience.

Clearly, Embarcadero believes it can capitalize whatever the outcome. Embarcadero is small enough compared to the Windows base that - in a relative sense - the opportunity is potentially huge.

History is also on its side. The company's tools have a history of feeding off the huge Windows market. Embarcadero bought the Delphi and C++ tools in may 2008 from Borland Software.

Borland was Microsoft's single biggest competitor in development tools on Windows during the late 1980s and 1990s, as Windows became established. Such was the competition and Borland's tools' level of quality, Microsoft poached a number of Borland's Delphi and RAD engineering brains during those years to build out its Visual Studio team. ®

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