2011 has been the year of revelations from InstallAware’s “secret history”. From Viresh’s behind-the-scenes puppet mastering of InstallAware to the CodeProject scandal, I have revealed many a secret this year. What better way then, than to end the year with yet another big reveal?
Cautious Optimism over the Fate of Delphi
Our story this time starts in 2006, when Borland spun off their IDE businesses into a newly formed CodeGear unit back in 2006.
At that time, many of us were cautiously optimistic, hoping that this new formation would help improve the fortunes of this magnificent product. As you may know, InstallAware itself is authored in Delphi – so we certainly wanted nothing other than the greatest of success for the compiler that our business is based on.
The Best Working Month of My Life was at CodeGear
A most happy development for InstallAware at this time was the adoption of InstallAware – over InstallShield – for the first-ever CodeGear branded release of Delphi. CodeGear replaced both the setup program they were bundling with Delphi, and the setup program that installed Delphi itself: InstallShield was out, InstallAware was in.
As part of this transition, I worked personally out of Scotts Valley for about a month, shoulder-to-shoulder with the people who had become my legends over the years, helping them build their new setup program using InstallAware.
I relished taking in all of the Borland history, sitting in David I’s office, looking at product boxes over a decade old but still in their shrink-wrap. I relished having the opportunity to listen to Allen Bauer’s stories of how he was tasked with working on Borland’s first-ever 32 bit DOS compilers, when the project was canned in favor of Delphi. Here were, and still are, my heroes. Working together with them was truly the best working month I have ever had in my life.
Here were found the pioneers of modern software – the true heroes of the computing revolution, those who may not have profited from it as much as other companies like, say Microsoft – but those who by all indicators worked to indeed better computer science (as opposed to profit).
Embarcadero’s Successful Acquisition of CodeGear
A little while down the road, Embarcadero acquired CodeGear for a mere fraction of an offer that Borland had apparently refused a few years ago. I retained my cautious optimism that still, everything would be in the best interests of Delphi.
To be sure, Embarcadero sounded like far less of an interesting brand name than CodeGear – I did find myself wishing they had kept the separate brand name intact. This is a thought that I also continue to reflect on recent version releases of Delphi. Delphi XE? Delphi XE2? Surely there could have been a better way to name the first multi-platform, 64-bit release of Delphi than “XE2”, where the meaning of “XE” itself is in question.
And while we never renewed the software bundling agreement we had signed as Borland and InstallAware, since to all intents and purposes everything was the same, the bundling of InstallAware with Delphi continued as-is.
Embarcadero’s Failed Acquisition of InstallAware
In 2009, InstallAware and Embarcadero entered into negotiations to acquire InstallAware. I thought so highly of my heroes, that I could not conceive of any ill coming through any of this. I openly shared all kinds of InstallAware trade secrets with Embarcadero – including the full source codes of InstallAware’s then-upcoming application virtualization product, ThinAware.
In hindsight, maybe this wasn’t the best decision of all. It turns out Embarcadero was owned by the same investment group that also owned InstallShield at the time. Needless to say, InstallShield is InstallAware’s primary competitor, and I find myself wondering whether any InstallAware trade secrets made their way back to InstallShield. InstallShield have recently cloned three previously unique InstallAware features…
Leaving speculation aside, Embarcadero’s offer for InstallAware was underwhelming. Written up on corporate letterhead, using rich verbiage such as “an all cash payment made in a single installment,” their actual valuation of InstallAware came out to only 25% of CodeProject’s valuation, where both were made in the same time frame. This was quite a shock, so much so that I asked Holden Spaht, the head-honcho at Embarcadero, to provide me with a written offer when I first heard of it: it just had to be a problem with the connection or my hearing. But needless to say, value lies in the eye of the beholder.
Of course, the acquisition failed. I chalked it all up to experience. Even though it was very unsettling that Embarcadero had valued InstallAware at only a meager fraction of CodeProject, it was their value to assign. They had done the same thing with Delphi too, after all.
Over the years, my cautious optimism about the eventual fate of Delphi began to decline. Product naming conventions aside, it seemed to me that the momentum Delphi had gained under CodeGear was bleeding off at Embarcadero. Moreover, my contacts at Embarcadero seemed less and less happy over time.
I know their dedicated installation engineer was let go, which certainly didn’t help the state of the InstallAware setup for Delphi I had originally built a few years ago. I noticed the installer gradually atrophy – of course, it was quite sad that InstallAware got all the blame for this; since no one could know that Embarcadero hadn’t even assigned a dedicated installation engineer to what might be considered one of their flagship products.
It also came as a big surprise that the partner serial keys, issued to vendors actively supporting Delphi with components and utilities such as InstallAware itself, were made to expire after only one year under the Embarcadero regime. These were perpetual during the Borland/CodeGear times.
We didn’t have much to be concerned about this at InstallAware, because our product was (and still is) being built using a CodeGear branded version of Delphi that had a non-expiring serial key. However, this level of growing stinginess was unsettling, to say the least.
InstallAware was almost hit by a frivolous patent troll lawsuit in 2010. The summary of the allegations was that InstallAware’s ability to create password protected setups infringed on prior art.
While InstallAware wasn’t directly targeted by the patent trolls, MicroFocus – who had recently acquired Borland – were the active targets of the patent trolls. And MicroFocus threatened to come after InstallAware because, in their opinion, the expired bundling agreement between Borland and InstallAware made us liable.
InstallAware turned to Embarcadero for help, since they were our active partners in the bundling. Embarcadero did nothing to aid InstallAware in this potential lawsuit. InstallAware had to absorb the cost of the legal defense all on its own.
I was definitely unsettled with the ease in which Embarcadero disowned the entire relationship given the threat of the lawsuit – “it’s a hot potato, we’ll throw it right back” was the exact remark of one Embarcadero employee. But again giving Embarcadero the benefit of the doubt, I let this one slide as well.
A Very Stingy Owner for Delphi
While I could chalk everything up so far to this or that, inventing some excuse or the other for the benefit of Embarcadero, in 2011 things started to truly get out of hand.
In 2011, InstallAware decided to – for the first time since 2007 – acquire non-expiring licenses for an Embarcadero branded Delphi.
And InstallAware failed to do so.
Now just to put things in perspective: back in 2004, when InstallAware wasn’t even an Integrated Partner, Borland had sent us full product boxes of all requested Borland IDE products, at their expense, and very promptly, just for the asking.
In 2011, it took us about two months of emails back and forth to squeeze a non-expiring license out of Embarcadero. And when they did issue the license, it was the wrong edition, valid for a single user, and with just three activations permitted.
And we haven’t been able to get them to issue the correct product edition license ever since!
All the while, of course, Embarcadero continue to use the latest versions of InstallAware to build their setups – without paying us a dime for it.
Again, putting this all in perspective – while InstallAware was nothing to Borland in 2004, they went out of their way to support us. In 2011, Embarcadero uses InstallAware for their installations and bundles our product (making us an Integrated Partner), and while one might expect at least the same level of courtesy that we were shown by Borland in 2004, if not more; what we have ended up with is something significantly worse.
Embarcadero Lies Shamelessly
Keep in mind that all this while, Embarcadero hadn’t even bothered to renew the expired software bundling agreement between Borland and InstallAware (one that they were all too quick to disown in the first sign of trouble, as was the case with the patent trolls).
All the same, InstallAware continued supporting Embarcadero out of good faith. We even issued an updated version of InstallAware to Embarcadero for their bundling in 2011, on the condition that we could issue further updates to the bundle version as necessary.
However, when we did try to issue another update, Embarcadero shocked us with nothing other than a shameless lie: they claimed they did not issue inline updates for Delphi at all, something which we knew to be factually false given our working relationship!
When I personally escalated the matter to Wayne Williams, the Embarcadero CEO, instead of owning up to this shameless lie, he threatened InstallAware with legal action – over an expired contract at that, and again, one which they had disowned a little over a year ago.
A Stingy Embarcadero Takes Liberties with Third Party Intellectual Property
The latest we have heard from Embarcadero’s lawyers is that they intend to forcefully bundle all current and future versions of InstallAware with their Delphi releases, regardless of our consent. They have made this absurd claim which sounds like InstallAware at some point entered into indentured service with Embarcadero, for life.
Their current bundling of InstallAware is without our consent.
Moreover, Embarcadero are refusing to pay us for the copies of InstallAware they use to build their own installers, while simultaneously refusing to issue InstallAware with non-expiring licenses of their products.
This means that Embarcadero are not only distributing unlicensed copies of InstallAware with their products; they are also using unlicensed copies of InstallAware to build the installers for their products.
What Are You Doing, Embarcadero?
At best, Embarcadero is engaging in willful abuse of InstallAware.
At worst…connect the dots above! From a hostile purchase offer that suggests Embarcadero never intended to buy us, to stealing the source codes of ThinAware, the sky seems to be the limit.
How Should InstallAware Respond?
For now, we’ve stopped hosting web media blocks on the bundled version of InstallAware. Even by the terms of the expired license agreement, we are under no obligation to do so. If you are affected by this issue, contact Embarcadero and ask them to provide you with a download URL for the single file build of the bundled version of InstallAware.
We also declined to activate the bundled version of InstallAware over a 24-hour period, hoping that Embarcadero gets the message:
We will not tolerate Embarcadero’s abuse of InstallAware. Embarcadero have abused our good will and our concern for the well-being of the Delphi eco-system for far too long.
We continue to explore legal and other options to protect our interests in this matter.
While we will do our best to ensure our mutual customers are not affected by this dispute, we may need to decline activations on the bundled version of InstallAware based on how things move forward with Embarcadero.
If you are affected by any of this, please feel free to contact your Embarcadero representative directly.
And last but not least – what would you do if you were in our shoes? Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts, as always.