Tool talk with Borland

Borland's merger announcement with Segue Software on February 8 included the news that Borland plans to exit the tools business. David Intersimone, VP of developer relations and chief evangelist, and Rob Cheng, director of products, discussed what this announcement means for developers with ADT's senior editor, Kathleen Richards.

ADT: You are working with Bear, Stearns and Co. to sell the company's developer tool assets. What if a buyer wants one but not others? Will the product lines be sold separately?

Intersimone: It's one package, which includes Borland Developer Studio--Delphi, C++Builder and C#Builder. It includes JBuilder, both our existing version built on our own substrate that we call Prime Time, but also project Peloton, which is taking a JBuilder experience and implementing it over the top of the Eclipse foundation framework. And then it also includes InterBase, which is our SQL server database that runs on multiple enterprise platforms, and then a couple of other products, one called JDataStore, which is an all-Java embeddable ANSI SQL database product.

ADT: If Borland is exiting this business, why would someone else want it?

Intersimone: It is profitable business in an area that is central to the world of software development. Software development and developers have always been and will continue to be the center of everything that goes on in the software economy. For some time now, we've had this struggle--it's not struggle in a bad sense--we've had to prioritize our investments and our focus on all these different areas.

Ultimately each area needs its own focus, and so the decision was to have Borland focus on solution selling into the enterprise space, and that's a different go-to-market model. It's really a consultative sale with solutions architects and sales account managers and sales engineers working with customers, versus the shrink-wrap products that are sold direct to individual developers or to organizations that have developers--so different marketing effort, sales model, different sales cycle.

The developer products go version to version and platform change to platform change. The enterprise application lifecycle products are more multi-year relationship contracts and meet release updates along the way, versus unique versions or tied to the next version of the JDK from Sun or the next Windows Vista platform from Microsoft.

Cheng: Not only is it a profitable business, but it is a business with real growth prospects. And part of the reason for this move, Borland, because of its focus and investment on ALM, really couldn't make the investments necessary to take advantage of opportunities, but they are there. There is definitely still room for innovation and growth in the IDE space.

One of the most exciting new areas is how developers can collaborate and take advantage of some of these new methodologies that are coming up, focused around Agile, or eXtreme programming, things like Scrum. They are very focused on the ability to quickly iterate, but in order to do that, you have to have very tight collaboration among developers. And in the increasingly distributed world of development, that becomes harder and harder, so JBuilder's peer-to-peer collaboration developer feature has really gained a lot of traction, a lot of interest in the industry, and it is certainly one of the areas where growth opportunities are available.

Intersimone: In addition to that, in the case of ALM, some of our customers don't use Borland IDEs. They may use other products, so it allows Borland to be more IDE agnostic. At the same time, for the developer products, we have integrations to the ALM solutions, but we also have customers that use our products but use other ALM technologies and solutions as well. So by having two separate companies, we can cross-license with each other and still support each other because we have a lot in common, but we can also support other systems without, in a sense, competing with ourselves, as well.

ADT: Some analysts acknowledge Delphi and its developer community, but they question the functionality of JBuilder, saying it overlaps with Eclipse, which is very, very popular. How would you address that?

Intersimone: Well, you are right. Delphi has its own very loyal following, especially in certain parts of the world like Europe, Eastern Europe, China, South America and elsewhere. It is also popular inside the United States. You just don't hear about it as much because most of the press is about Sun and Java and about Microsoft and Visual Studio.

With JBuilder, if the analysis is what I'll call surface deep, where people look at Eclipse and they say, "Okay, gee, it's got an editor, a compiler, a debugger, it does some refactoring, then it's an IDE." But if you look at Eclipse, it's more than just an IDE. In fact, the IDE is just a reference application for what really is powerful, which is the underlying architecture of Eclipse, the foundation libraries and the foundation projects. People don't realize there is a whole client platform kernel, which is part of Eclipse, and that people are building applications on top of Eclipse as well, not just developer tools and developer solutions.

The second thing is that JBuilder, over the years, has grown to be more than just a Java editing system. If you want a Java editing system, you can use Emax or VI or the command-line tools that you get for free from Sun, but the real power and productivity is in application development. It is not just the building and refactoring and editing systems. It's the expressiveness of designing user interfaces, of designing the distribution of parts of your application that you are trying to build to application servers, and the fact that you might target multiple different application servers.

So the things that are in JBuilder for productivity, for peer-to-peer collaboration--none of that exists in any other development environment for Java. The visual programming, the JB designers for distributed computing--we are taking all of that Java development experience and putting that on top of the Eclipse framework, and that's the real value of JBuilder. Yes, it also does editing and compiling and debugging of Java code. And we have a lot of customers that are still using JBuilder, even though Eclipse has been around for some time now. They keep using JBuilder because it helps them be more productive and it helps their developers collaborate with each other.  

Cheng: Some of those basic capabilities that overlap, like editing and basic refactoring, are the sort of things that don't differentiate us anyway, so we are not going to spend time in R&D doing those things, which gives us time to spend on some of the higher-level developer productivity areas that our customers are asking for.

ADT: You mentioned there is a team still working on these products, how large is that team?

Intersimone: I don't have an exact number because some people are shared. It is several hundred people who are here, still focused on doing all of this work. We haven't stopped anything. We have roadmaps out there both on the Java side and on the Windows side, and we are executing along those roadmaps. We are working on project designers for .NET 2.0 and Windows Vista, and we are active with our customers on our plans for all of that. Last week we put up a trial edition of Borland Developer Studio and a Flash demo to get all those people that may be sitting on the fence or maybe are looking for more productivity to download it and try it.

ADT: What does this divestiture mean for people using these tools?

Intersimone: It means that, one, they know that we are still here working; nothing has been stopped. Two, their investment in Delphi, in JBuilder, in their projects, million of lines of source code, in the whole ecosystem that surrounds JBuilder with Java beans components, with plug-ins, and open tools, the Eclipse community and all their plug-ins that work with JBuilder on Eclipse--we also have thousands of components for Delphi on Win 32 and for .NET--all of that investment is secure. The book authors, the trainers, the consultants, all of those things, all of those people and all of those companies--their investment is secure because we are moving forward, and this new company will be created, and we will keep focusing on our customers' success.

ADT: What's the status of the sale?

Cheng: Basically, there has been plenty of interest. But again, since the initial announcement, what we are really focused on is finding the right buyer, not just the first or the highest bidder.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards ([email protected]) is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.