Borland Shifts Gears

Yes, it's true: Borland Software will not be divesting itself of its developer-tools assets, collectively known since the company put them up for sale in February as DevCo. Those assets, both technological and human, will be spun off into a wholly owned subsidiary, henceforth known as CodeGear . To the many hardcore fans of the company's IDEs, that should probably be holy owned.

Few companies in Silicon Valley have been as interesting to watch over the years, from both a technological and business standpoint, as Borland. (And brothers and sisters, that's saying something.) We profiled the company in 2003, and I had the opportunity to talk with the previous CEO, Dale Fuller, who was actually brought in to chop the then ailing then-Inprise into bite-sized pieces. Fuller and his team ended up keeping the company whole, changing the name back to Borland, revitalizing old product lines, and presiding over the company's first moves into the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) market. ''This company had extremely loyal customers who had made a choice to stick with it, even when the last administration said we don’t want you anymore,'' Fuller told me. ''I think that’s a real testament to the technology that was built here, and the technologists who built it.''

Now another slice-and-dice plan has been set aside. I'm beginning to wonder if supernatural forces are at work here. (I can envision Borland's bewhiskered evangelist David Intersimone—now at CodeGear—in a pointed hat and robe, casting spells in a backroom somewhere.)

To be precise, Borland-the-ALM-company is still separating itself from the dev-tool operation, Borland's chief marketing officer, Rick Jackson, reminded me for our news story on the plan. As we reported, the ALM operation will be headquartered in Cupertino, while the tools operation is already ensconced in Borland's old Scotts Valley campus.

''We're so happy to have a decision,'' Jackson said, ''to have clarity that allows both Borland and CodeGear to move forward. Now it's about two companies, focused and driving innovation in their markets. And that will be a refreshing change.''

I had a chance to talk with two of the newly appointed CodeGear execs last week: Former Borlanders Joe McGlynn, now JBuilder product manager, and Michael Swindell, now VP of products and strategies. Apparently, not that much has changed in Scotts Valley.

''We're going to be doing exactly the same things we set out to do at the beginning of the year,'' Swindell said. ''The only difference is that Borland is the investor.''

Swindell said it was clear to all concerned that the two businesses needed to be separated. ''There's so much happening in the development tools space,'' he said. ''So many new technologies, platforms, languages. In order for us to address those things effectively, we needed to get away from this split focus we've had for the past few years.''

Split focus or not, the tools guys have been busy. In August, they released the new ''Turbo'' product line, and they're set to release the much anticipated Eclipse-based JBuilder 2007, formerly code-named ''Peloton.''

''What we've seen in the past couple of years is an evolution in the Java enterprise space toward open source and Eclipse,'' said Swindell, in the understatement of the decade. ''And our JBuilder customers have been locked out of that, because JBuilder was based on the PrimeTime core. That's a great IDE core, but it's not Eclipse-compatible. In this release, that changes.''

The latest incarnation of the venerable IDE is built on the Eclipse tooling framework. It comes with Visual EJB support, Web services GUIs, and Java 5 Enterprise functionality, to provides, McGlynn explained, a highly productive drag-and-drop environment. It also comes with the TeamInsight collaboration portal, which is designed to let organizations leverage best-of-breed solutions for source-code management, requirements, bug tracking, and project management. The company promises that JBuilder 2006 customers will be able to migrate their existing applications easily to the new Eclipse-based IDE.

The CodeGear team won't be limiting itself to developing tools for Java, .NET, C++, Delphi, or C#, Swindell said. The new company will be looking to build products for a broad spectrum of languages, tools, libraries, and components. (Think Ajax, Ruby, PHP.)

I suspect that, even as they pursue different product lines and business strategies, Borland and CodeGear will benefit from their close connection. After all, the IDE is the dashboard for ALM, Gartner analyst Thomas Murphy observed. ''When you think about ALM, the idea is to drive everything to the IDE,'' he said. ''That's what people are familiar with. My question is, what's Borland's identity if you take away their IDE? What's the portal that you come through?''

In fact, McGlynn pointed out, JBuilder 2007 is designed to integrate with Borland's ALM products, including Together and StarTeam, which are also based on Eclipse.

JBuilder 2007 is scheduled to go GA later this quarter. More info on system requirements, languages, and pricing, is available on the JBuilder page.

BTW: The operation in Scotts Valley may be up and running, but there's no need to rush to the CodeGear website; it's still ''in transition,'' which means there's nothing there yet. 

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].