Borland's Turbo Gambit
- By John K. Waters
Borland Software's soon-to-be-spun-off development tools group, known
internally as DevCo, is today unveiling a new group of tools under an old label.
The newly christened ''Turbo'' line comprises four, single-language versions of
Borland Developer Studio 2006, the company's development environment for
Microsoft Windows and .NET applications.
When I say ''old,'' I mean venerable, because, as my
fellow geezers know, Borland's Turbo Pascal was the first IDE. It shipped
in November 1983 on a single floppy disk, and it launched an industry category.
The new Turbo line is the first group of products developed by the DevCo
group operating as a separate entity. The initial release will include Turbo
Delphi for Win32, Turbo Delphi for .NET, Turbo C++, and Turbo C#. The Turbo
tools are designed to give developers everything they need for rapid development
of high-performance GUI, database, Web, and Web services apps for Windows. Turbo
Delphi for .NET and Turbo C# both support the Microsoft .NET and ASP.NET
The company is making each version available in two editions: Turbo Explorer,
which is a free download, and Turbo Professional, which will sell for under
$500. The professional edition is designed to accept thousands of third-party
tools, components, and plug-ins, the company says.
When I spoke last week with Michael Swindell, the DevCo group's senior
director of product management, he hammered home the point that the
brand is a classic, but the technologies and capabilities in the new
Turbo editions are ''leading edge.''
''We're bringing back a classic brand name, but with all of our latest,
technologies,'' he said. ''It's all part of our efforts to reinforce in the
market our focus on developers and development.''
The pitch here is that Borland is offering ''low-cost, language-specific
rapid application development capabilities for students, hobbyist developers,
occupational developers as well as individual professionals.'' In other words,
the DevCo guys are reaching out to an exceedingly broad set of potential
customers, and stretching the definition of ''developer'' to include just about
anybody who wants or needs to write a little code.
''People have looked at Borland's enterprise focus and wondered if DevCo is
just going to be an enterprise company,'' explained David Intersimone, Borland's
VP of developer relations and chief evangelist. (He joined the call, even though
he had to bring his lunch into the conference room to do it.) ''And we are going
to be an enterprise company. But we're also going to be an SMB company, and
individual developer company, a student developer company, and a
hobbyist/non-traditional programmer company.''
Why reach out to what amounts to every conceivable level of developer? Partly
because there's a growing need for that very approach, Intersimone said.
''Compare the number of professional developers working today with the amount
of software that needs to get built,' he said. ''A lot of companies are focusing
their developer resources on very large enterprise solutions. So who's building
the next recipe-sorting program for 'Iron Chef' aficionados?''
''We tend to think about software development as either an IT thing or
something you farm out to consultants,'' Swindell added. ''But over the years,
we've made programming, not only very powerful, but very simple. Now you've got
all kinds of people—people who've never done any programming—who are starting to
think like programmers.''
But there's another, more fundamental driver at work here: Development is in
this group's DNA.
''That's our company,'' Intersimone said. ''We're the developer company.
That's what we're all about. We're all developers who care about development.
And the company is going to provide tools and technologies for developers of all
shapes and sizes.''
Conspicuous by its absence from this announcement is JBuilder, the one-time
reigning kind of Java IDEs, effectively dethroned by the open-source Eclipse
tooling framework. No one mentioned a ''Turbo Java'' edition, but Swindell
assured me that the DevCo group is working on a product line for JBuilder. And
the company did announce JBuilder Foundation Edition 2006 in May at JavaOne.
The efficacy of this brand-resurrection strategy remains to be seen, of
course, as does the DevCo group's approach to the market. But on a personal
level, I can't help but be moved by their sheer enthusiasm for programming.
These are people who are still genuinely excited about building applications,
who still remember how fun programming can be, and who believe that anyone who
wants to can do it. I wish them well.
Investor negotiations are proceeding apace, Swindell
said, and he expects the DevCo group to leave the Borland mother
ship sometime in the third quarter.
new Turbo products are still in beta, but they're set to go GA on September 5.
The Turbo Explorer site is set to
go live today. Look for the retro red-yellow-an-black boxes based on the
original Turbo Pascal packaging. The site will provide videos, code samples,
how-to info, and a countdown to product availability.
BTW: You can actually download a copy of Turbo Pascal 1.0,
as well as other ''antique'' editions of Borland software at the company's Community Software Museum.
Speaking of JBuilder's uncertain future, if you're connected at all with the
Java community, you probably received on of the recent ''news blasts'' from Sun Microsystems about its new
JBuilder-to-NetBeans migration program. It would be hard to miss the banner:
''Got the Borland Blues? Migrate Your JBuilder Projects to NetBeans for Free.''
(I'm not judging; I'm just saying.)
The program includes a migration workshop, tutorials on NetBeans, and 60 days
of email support. Additional support contracts are also available for larger
organizations that need additional training and certification.
I spoke yesterday with Sun's Dianna Yee-Stauffer, Group Marketing Manager for
the Sun Developer Network Program about the JBuilder migration plan. The plan
isn't merely a response to an opportunity in a competitive market, she said, but
part of her company's ongoing mission to promote open-source technologies. This
is just one example of the advantages of a lively open-source community
(NetBeans) over the uncertainties of the shifting market for proprietary
''We've always had these services available,''
Yee-Stauffer said. 'And we're an open-source company, after all. NetBeans is an
open-source tool with a strong community committed to its evolution. There are a
lot of people out there working on taking it into the next generation. And we're
here to provide support to the larger organizations
who need it.''
More details are available at the Sun
Developer Network site. There's also a blog on the
campaign that's worth a look.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached