Borland Software Corp.s plan to divest its integrated development environment tools has sparked optimism in some Borland IDE users and speculation about who might buy the business.
Nick Hodges, a developer at Dunn Solutions Group, in St. Paul, Minn., and a user of Borlands Delphi IDE, said he is "cautiously optimistic" about the prospects for the technology.
Meanwhile, Randy Magruder, a senior software engineer at TransWorld Network, in Tampa, Fla., also a Delphi user, said, "They need to find a home for it really fast."
Both developers said they are optimistic because they think Delphi is a very good tool that has not seen a lot of support from Borland.
"Delphi has been allowed to languish inside Borland for years in terms of marketing," Magruder said.
Hodges agreed. "Delphis been the redheaded stepchild at Borland," he said.
"Whenever a Borland tool did something great you never heard about it," Magruder said. For instance, "Borland brought Delphi to .Net seamlessly, but Microsoft had trouble moving its VB6 [Visual Basic 6] users from VB6 to VB.Net, but Borland never talked about that very much," he said, referring to the so-called VB Revolt where several VB users petitioned Microsoft over leaving them stranded in the switch to the new platform.
"If the new company is willing to take risks, be bold and innovate, and promote the features of the tools, I think there is a lot of opportunity there," Magruder said.
Jim Duggan, research vice president at Gartner, in Cary, N.C., said Borlands tools have "a very loyal base. Delphi can probably be a bigger business than it has been. And there will need to be a new generation [of the tool] for [Windows] Vista."
Duggan said Borlands C++ and C# tools also "have opportunities," but "a lot of people have abandoned JBuilder. Eclipse has done the same sort of number on that product that Visual Studio did on the other side [.Net products] years ago."
Regarding Borlands Java tool set, Magruder said, "I see no future in the JBuilder side of things under any company banner because of Eclipse."
Moreover, Magruder said he is skeptical about Borlands plans to focus on application lifecycle management.
"I dont hold out a lot of hope for Borland; I think this is Inprise all over again," he said, referring to the 1998 experiment when then-CEO Del Yocam changed the companys name to Inprise and made a failed attempt to make Borland a middleware company.
Meanwhile, observers have begun to speculate on who might buy Borlands tools.
Mike Schinkel, chief executive of Xtras, in Atlanta, gave a rundown of potential suitors who might want to acquire Borlands IDE tools. His top three: Novell, Salesforce.com and Google.
"With Borlands IDEs, Novell could go toe-to-toe with Microsoft Visual Studio but instead optimize for Mono," Schinkel wrote in a blog post.
Schinkel said Salesforce.com has the most to gain. "With his AppExchange strategy, [CEO] Marc Benioff could grab the Borland tool set and optimize for programming Salesforces APIs. Marc could also use Interbase as an engine for local caching of Salesforce.com data. If Marc buys, it could be really good for the Borland IDE tools faithful. But Marc will only maximize benefit from such a purchase if he opens access to the API to all Salesforce.com customers, not just Enterprise Edition and up," he said.
But Schinkel called Google a wild card.
"With all the Web services and APIs Google is offering, it would make great sense for them to offer a great set of developer tools to the mix; theyve already shown a willingness to provide downloadable software with Google Pack," Schinkel said. "I can see it now; all of Borlands products would be freely available for download from http://devtools.google.com; talk about market share! Microsoft, be afraid, be very afraid. This is probably the best option I can think of for the Borland IDE tools faithful and will further upset the balance of power between the Big M and the Big G."
Meanwhile, Magruder, a longtime Borland IDE user, grew reminiscent.
"I would miss the Borland name because theres a lot of history and heritage. But the Borland we knew was gone a long time ago."