Actually, the pre-conference tutorials started on the preceding Saturday afternoon, and continued through Sunday AM and PM sessions, but the opening Keynote from Del Yocam, Chairman and CEO of Borland, was on Sunday afternoon.
Almost 2,500 people attended the opening keynote (a total of 2,700 people were said to have visited the conference, of which 60% came mainly for Delphi, 10% for C++Builder, 10% for JBuilder and 20% for other issues).
It all started with a spectacular laser show, after which a Star Wars look-alike movie began that ended in a lot of hot explosions and live action on stage:
During the keynote that followed this action, Del Yocam explained that this was not really about Joining Forces Against The Evil Empire, but rather about a new buzzword: InfoNets.
InfoNets will be built on a strong foundation of Multi-tier technologies, intelligent middleware and component based application logic for the development of distributed applications.
The InfoNet sits on top of a corporate Intranet, bridging the many islands of departmental and enterprise data.
Del Yocam also announced plans to implement a new, all-inclusive partner program called the "Borland Business Solutions Program", which will become a generic designation for all partner programs, of which the Borland Connections program is one (so for those Connection Members who got a little worried: it doesn't replace it, but merely encompasses it).
After Del's speech, it was Zack Urlocker's turn (aka Luke Skywalker) to show some of the new practical examples of InfoNets using Delphi, C++Builder, IntraBuilder and JBuilder.
MIDAS and Entera were mentioned as the middle-ware for the n-tier solution Zack built on stage.
Borland will ship a new high-end edition of Delphi, called Delphi Enterprise, which combines Delphi Client/Server with its Entera collection of middleware technology. After Delphi, there will probably also be a C++Builder Enterprise and other Enterprise editions of the Borland tools (like Client/Server editions).
Apart from the opening keynote by Del Yocam on Sunday, each conference day featured another industry expert keynote speaker, such as Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Novell on Monday. Borland and Novell have a common interest in evolving intranet, Internet and Java platforms to support new generation InfoNet applications.
On Tuesday, we saw Bill Zeitler, General Manager of IBM's AS/400 Division. Borland is working closely with IBM on a number of fronts including a new application development initiative to allow developers using Borland tools to build apps for the AS/400 market.
On Wednesday, we experienced a video conferencing featuring Larry Ellison, Chairman and CEO of Oracle Corp, which was mainly about the NC and its potentials. Earlier this year, Oracle has licensed JBuilder and C++Builder for integration with their products, making Borland tools the "de facto" standard for Oracle customers.
Del Yocam made it clear that this Quarter (Q3) the long-delayed JBuilder Java development environment would finally ship. I've seen lots of demos of JBuilder, and it sure will blow you away, but I can only say it's about time!
Of course, the biggest part of the conference were the more than 200 sessions hosted by experts in the fields (such as Ray Konopka, Bruce Eckel, Jeroen Pluimers and Marco Cantù).
No less than eight core tracks (Delphi, C++Builder & Borland C++, JBuilder, IntraBuilder, Entera, Visual dBASE, Management (which was new) and General) enabled us developers to focus on specific product interests or explore other technologies. Unfortunately, not every session was repeated, so while occasionally there were no sessions of interest to me (believe or not), there were also sessions that I regretfully missed because I had to do something else at the time (like giving my own sessions).
Two of the most popular sessions where the Delphi Product Address and the Delphi Meet-The-Team session. The room was filled with almost 2,000 people (only the general keynote sessions attracted more people). Of course, everyone wanted to actually see, hear and touch the people who made Delphi a reality, especially after we heard that Borland has sold over 1,000,000 copies of Delphi.
Apart from those two, my personal favorite sessions were the two held by Nick Hodges - Delphi 3 ActiveForms and Delphi 3 ISAPI (Web Modules). The session with the most laughs was Marco Cantù's "Fun with Delphi" on Monday evening. Marco showed in his own way how to (ab)use Delphi in ways you couldn't even imagine if you weren't there.
Finally, I also enjoyed a special "Birds-of-a-Feather" session by Mike Scott and John Howe (about Merlin COM Wizards), and the vendor session from Shoreline Software about Portcullis (the IAG - Internet Application Gateway).
Like I mentioned earlier: people could also get a head start with pre-conference tutorials on Saturday or Sunday. These four-hour intensive sessions are really perfect, and they offer the presenter and the listeners far more possibilities to start with the basics but quickly explore the truly advanced issues in depth as well. Personally, I greatly enjoyed both doing and attending pre-conference tutorials (especially the feedback both during and after the session), and I'm sure I'll be doing at least one next year!
The Exhibition Area was used by no less than 42 vendors to show their latest tools, techniques, magazines and even one bookstore was present (although they carried a lot of unnecessary books, and far too few copies of C++Builder Unleashed). It's good to see the amount of business emerging from the Borland development tools (the pictures that follow just show some of my personal highlights):
Chad Z. Hower, Glenn Field and Mark Miller (note the Raptor).
ShoreLine Software mainly showed their latest version of Portcullis (aka IAG - Internet Application Gateway), web application development technology for Delphi and C++ Builder. Portcullis deploys the ultimate thin client, securely behind a firewall with transparent access to CGI, ISAPI and NSAPI. Portcullis includes automatic, large scale load balancing technology for massive scalability. Chad Z. Hower and Glenn Field from ShoreLine Software did a Vendor Showcase showing some of the latest issues in Portcullis.
Another Web Application Framework vendor was present as well: Michael Ax and Ann Lynnworth of HRef with WebHub. WebHub has been available for quite some time, and is actually the first tool available for Delphi developers to develop and deploy complete Web Server Applications with.
John Howe and Mike Scott visit Loren Scott in action at the Luxent booth (note: Luxent is a recent merger between DFL and SuccessWare).
TurboPower Software had a lot of people watching the booth (as well as people inside the booth). Of course, this was also due to the fact that at least one of them (Kent Reisdorph) was doing some C++Builder sessions along the way.
TurboPower presented their latest essentials, a set of simple of often quite helpful (and essential) components for your daily applications.
Blinkinc presented - among other things - their latest version of Shrinker, which can be used to schrink down the size of any DOS, 16-bits or 32-bits Windows executable file (and this includes EXE, VBX, OCX, DLL and even DPL packages (note: a DPL is just a DLL internaly)). I was very pleased with the demo of Shrinker, and a more detailed review will be available here shortly.
NuMega presented BoundsChecker for Windows, in the latest Delphi and C++Builder editions, as well as Soft-ICE which is a real low-level debugger for the hard work.
A CD-ROM with a free 30-day trial edition of BoundsChecker was also available in the Conference Bag, so everyone who went to the conference can find out for themselves how much bugs and leaks BoundsChecked is able to find in your project...
Informant was also present, and here I learned that they decided not to publish the C++(Builder) Informant. The initial response for this magazine must have been too low to justify publication. That's too bad, since at the conference we also learned that Borland has sold over 100,000 copies of C++Builder, and Borland C++ itself also has a strong group of supporters.
I hope other magazines can still publish some C++Builder related articles.
The usual conference CD-ROM included the technical papers for sessions in all tracks, and can be used as a reference and/or to explore any sessions that have been missed. Unfortunately, not every paper is included on the CD-ROM.
For the 41 Delphi sessions (including 2 panel sessions), 32 papers were present, which is not too bad. However, for the 30 C++Builder sessions (also 2 panel sessions), only 15 papers were on the CD-ROM, and for the 28 JBuilder sessions (again 2 panel sessions) only 10 papers could be found. Of course, C++Builder has been available very shortly, and JBuilder is still in beta, but it's still disappointing that so little information can be found on the CD-ROM, especially since it's hard to check the CD-ROM while attending the conference (when you need to decide which session to follow and which paper to read on the CD-ROM instead).
Like last year, a final CD-ROM is promised to ship to attendees near the end of the year.
The 8th Borland Conference in Nashville was a lot of fun. I certainly had the time of my life again (when I wasn't lost in the jungle they called "Orpyland Hotel"). A few things can be improved for next year (like bigger rooms, more repeated sessions, more papers on the CD-ROM), but that doesn't mean this year was any less worthwhile. I can really recommend this conference to anyone who wants to learn about the Borland development tools, wants to socialize with other developers, or just wants to have a great time.
Borland Conference - see you next year!