Borland Software Corp. is said to be losing two of its top engineers to Microsoft Corp. in a brain drain reminiscent of a period several years ago when Microsoft cherry-picked some of the top talent from Borland.
According to sources and documents Borland filed with the federal government, the Scotts Valley, Calif., company will say goodbye to Blake Stone, the companys chief technology officer as of Feb. 6. Stone is said to be headed to Microsoft Corp. to pursue “an offer he could not refuse,” a source said.
Meanwhile, Chuck Jazdzewski, formerly chief scientist and architect of Borlands Delphi technology, left the company last month and is also said to be headed to Microsoft. Sources said Jazdzewski will be joining Microsofts Avalon team. Avalon is the presentation layer of the companys upcoming Longhorn operating system, which is expected in 2005 or 2006.
Celine Allee, a spokeswoman for Borland, acknowledged that both Stone and Jazdzewski had decided to leave Borland, but said she did not know where either was headed.
Microsoft would not comment on the fate of the two developers or whether they had been hired by the Redmond, Wash., software giant.
However, sources said the two are definitely defecting to Microsoft. Borland has long been proving ground for Microsoft talent. Over the years many top Borland developers—including Anders Hejlsberg, who developed Delphi for Borland and was instrumental in the creation of C# for Microsoft—have left Borland for Microsoft.
“Borlanders have done that in the past” and Borland has lived to move forward, Allee said. In addition, in a prior interview with eWEEK, David Intersimone, Borlands vice president of developer relations, said most of Borlands developers who left for Microsoft all tended to look back and pay homage to Borland, as Hejlsberg did in creating a line of compatibility between Microsofts C# and Borlands Delphi.
In 1997 then-Borland CEO Del Yocam sued Microsoft over the brain drain, which included Hejlsberg. The suit alleged Microsoft hired more than 30 key Borland employees over 30 months to try to get the companys plans. Microsoft offered incentives such as stock options, real estate and large signing bonuses. Notable defections also included Paul Gross, who was then Borlands vice president of research and development.
Meanwhile, Borland officials said that moving forward the company is looking at all good news.
For instance, Borland is moving to better align its organization and now has promised to gain more focus by putting all of its integrated development environment (IDE) groups—including C++, Delphi, Java and Linux (Kylix) tools—under one group that will report to George Paolini, who has been Borlands vice president and general manager of Java products, Borland officials said.
And officials said the hiring of Matt Thompson as senior vice president of worldwide sales is “pivotal” to the companys strategy. Thompson was hired away from Marimba Inc. in October.
One source close to Borland said Stone “made a lot of things happen,” particularly with the companys Java tools, as he was a key contributor to Borlands JBuilder Java development tool. The source said both Stone and Jazdzewski going to Microsoft is ironic because it was Stones elevation to Borland CTO in mid-2003 that many insiders said they believe made Jazdzewski begin to have rumblings about leaving the company.
However, the defections of Stone and Jazdzewski are not isolated. Over the last few months other key personnel have left the company. Roger Barney, Borlands chief administrative officer, is set to leave at the end of this month. Doug Barre, former chief operating officer, left Oct. 15. Simon Thornhill, former Borland vice president and general manager of .Net solutions, left in the last couple of months. And Frank Slootman, former Borland senior vice president of software products, left earlier in 2003.
Yet despite losing large numbers of people in the past, Borland has remained a key contributor to the developer tools community, with highly regarded and industry-leading tools such as JBuilder, C++Builder and Kylix.
“I dont see the recent departures as a brain drain,” said Theresa Lanowitz, an analyst with Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn. “I think what we are experiencing is business as usual in the software industry. And positions at tech companies are opening up. Borland, for some reason, tends to keep people longer than what we typically see at software companies. So when you see people leaving from Borland it does seem somewhat odd.”
She added that Borland is undergoing an image change: “Borland has historically been a leading-edge company. That is a fine image to have, but if Borland really wants to be taken seriously in the minds of CIOs, who are now being held accountable from the line of business, they need to shift their focus and how they approach the market. I think [Borland CEO] Dale Fuller is quite capable of putting together a team of people to make the dramatic shift that Borland needs to.”
Thomas Murphy, an analyst with the Meta Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn., said, “That is a bit of brain drain but also them going through growing, etc. … So I dont think it is a tremendous problem, but I would keep an eye on things. The quarter looks like it turned out better than I thought, the EBU is starting to get a bit pulled together, management is shaping up, and the technologies are getting integrated.”
John Muchow, a Java 2 Micro Edition technical expert with CoreJ2ME.com who uses Borland technology, said: “With a solid product line and extremely talented development staff, I dont believe this will have a long-term effect on Borland.”
Dale Fuller, chief executive of the Scotts Valley, Calif., company, said the companys engineers remain very solid. “The technical leadership of the company is with 10 people [primarily chief scientists in different units]; each unit has multiple key architects. We bring out the best and brightest minds and promote them through the ranks. Blake Stone was one of those people.”
Fuller sad the company is “sad to lose a friend like Blake Stone, but were also proud of him. Hes a Borlander forever. We couldnt have chosen a better ambassador for Borland.”
Fuller said the recent defections “will not have any impact on Borlands ability to continue to deliver on our ALM [Application Lifecycle Management] strategy.”
Developer viewpoints varied on the moves. “Normally if some high profile person at a company resigns then no big deal, they are probably moving on to bigger and better things,” said a poster on the Fog Creek Software Inc. software discussion forum. “But to have four high-level folks resign seems like more than just coincidence.”
Another poster said: “Borland has been sinking for ages, while in the meantime such unsinkable Titanics as Netscape, Visual Cafe, Visual J++, Enron, etc. have disappeared without a trace. After a while the Borland is dying mantra sounds more like a dull whine, almost like the distant braying of donkeys.”