Dont Cry for Borlands Tools Business

Opinion: There's no sense mourning Borland's decision to sell its development tools because there isn't much prospect for innovation in a sector that has become heavily commoditized-mainly by open-source products.

There is no use in crying big crocodile tears about Borlands decision to sell off its integrated development environment tools in favor of new business strategy focused on software lifecycle management and testing.

The cold, hard business facts are that if Borland wants to survive and keep growing it has to make this move, as unpalatable as it may appear.

Its impossible to keep the IDE business going when the technology has become so commoditized that competitors are practically giving them away for free like matchbooks with a pack of cigarettes.

Its plan to buy Segue Software makes sense even if it is accompanied by the more radical decision to get out of the development tools business.

It doesnt matter anymore that Borland was once a innovator in the field of IDE technology that made life easier for coders to learn the arcane conventions and practices of programming in the C, C++ and Java languages.

/zimages/5/28571.gifOpen source popularity forces Borland to retrench. Click here to read more.

By now most programmers have a complete set of every IDE on the market. Or if they dont, they know they can find another one by just downloading it from the Web.

Its also no use blaming Eclipse or the open-source software industry for distributing for nearly nothing the development tools and IDEs that Borland used to charge several hundred dollars for.

That is just part of the natural process of commoditization that would have taken place, perhaps at a slower pace, whether or not Eclipse came into the market.

The only interesting question at this point is whether Borland can find a company that is willing to pay as much as $100 million for its IDE products that were built with so much care, cash and brainpower over the past 10 years. Delphi, C++ Builder, C# Building, JBuilder, and Kylix have been valuable franchises.

But their best revenue-generating years are behind them and it is questionable that they can be upgraded or extended in any way that will do more than let a new owner eke out a few more profitable years, like an oil company trying to coax the last few thousand barrels from a depleted well.

The industry has already begun the speculation game of what current competitor might even be willing to pay Borland for its IDE products.

BEA Systems quickly comes to mind as a likely candidate. Its in the same market and serves many of the same customers. A number of former Borland developers and executives have gone to work for BEA and vice versa.

Then again, perhaps one of its competitors in the ALM (application lifecycle management) field, such a Serena Software or even Mercury Interactive would be willing to pick it up.

Then again, OReilly Media, long a publisher of computer technology books and a sponsor of conferences on a variety of application development technologies, might consider adding the Borland IDEs to its product line.

It would be a good addition to its core constituency and would allow the company to acquire a valuable new revenue stream.

Next Page: Spinning out the tools.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s eWEEK.com since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...