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Borland Software Corp. is thinking big once again. A one-time thorn in the side of Microsoft Corp., Borland has a new target: IBM and its Rational division. Borland is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week at its annual BorCon conference in San Jose, Calif., and CEO Dale Fuller and his team have positioned the Scotts Valley, Calif., development software tools maker to compete with Rational, which IBM acquired at the beginning of the year, by touting Borlands independence over IBMs size.
Both companies are attacking the ALM (application lifecycle management) space with tools that take users and developers through the requirements and design phases to coding, testing and maintaining applications.
“What we found is that they [Rational] had a great idea and absolutely the right idea, and they were a lot of years ahead of their time,” Fuller said in an interview. “But what they also found is they had to bring all this stuff together and provide a whole solution to the whole life cycle. They said they were going to do that five years ago, and they still say theyre going to do it sometime in the future.”
People may have counted Borland out after its early skirmishes with Microsoft, but it has stuck around because of its focus on the developer. Borland was founded in 1983 by larger-than-life entrepreneur Philippe Kahn, who touted Borland products as being for developers and by developers. Borland gained a following after the delivery of its first major product, Turbo Pascal, which many consider to be the first commercial IDE (integrated development environment).
Borland went on to become widely known for its IDE expertise, a legacy that continues today with JBuilder, the companys Java IDE, as well as C++Builder and Delphi. This week at BorCon, Borland will announce Delphi 8, code-named Delphi Octane, which has been enhanced to support Microsofts .Net platform. Borland will also demonstrate JBuilder X and how it has integrated tools Borland acquired, including those from TogetherSoft Corp. and Starbase Corp., that address the development life cycle and make the companys ALM strategy real.
“When Microsoft was still stuck in a traditional environment, we were continuously adding capabilities into the development environment and expanding the environment,” said David Intersimone, vice president of developer relations at Borland and an 18-year company veteran. “So all the acquisitions we did in the last year were based on 18 to 19 years of tight connection with developers, feedback from developers, a whole worldwide developer community constantly pushing us. The acquisitions extended that reach across the development process, across the software life cycle.”
Blake Stone, Borlands chief technology officer, said the “application life cycle is not something that blindsided us. Its been on our radar for long enough that we knew we wanted to grow and build an organization around solving these kinds of problems.
“Borlands goal is to make sure we have an organization capable of taking that message to market and making sure we have the right products for those spaces. And over the last four years, we changed the path of the organization so that were capable of going to market and that we have the right products,” said Stone.
As an example of how ALM can work in the enterprise, Fuller pointed to St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, in Memphis, Tenn. Steve Young, program manager in the St. Jude clinical trials software development group, said the hospital treats more than 4,000 children per year and has to build software applications around each child.
St. Jude began using Borlands CaliberRM requirements management system, which led to the hospitals adoption of Borlands Together ControlCenter and StarTeam solutions. Since then, the process of creating treatment and lifesaving applications and databases has shrunk from three to four months to 16 to 20 hours, Young said.
The hospital chose Borlands solutions over Rational after Young had just come from an enterprise that used Rational and found it “extremely expensive and extremely demanding,” Young said.
Ron Segal, president of Spectrum Systems Inc., a Fairfax, Va., systems integrator that focuses on government accounts, said Spectrum decided to use Borlands ALM products on accounts because of Borlands “independence. The whole idea of being technology-neutral is a factor in us choosing Borland. Because, like us, they say, Were not going to replace what you have; were going to integrate with it.”
Analysts like Borlands approach, yet Theresa Lanowitz, an analyst with Gartner Inc., of Stamford, Conn., said the question is not whether Borland can compete with Rational but whether Borland can compete with IBM. “Its tough to compete with IBM; they are the enterprise gold standard. I dont think IBM has done near what it could do with the Rational tools,” Lanowitz said.
And while Thomas Murphy, an analyst with Meta Group Inc., also of Stamford, said Borlands independence appeals to developers, to take on IBM, “I think they need to recapture some of what was there in the past. There needs to be a bit more bravado and imagination. I believe they are willing. Their independence is their ace in the hole.”
Bravado is something Borland had plenty of under Kahn. At that time, Borland fought through the early PC database wars. Rob Dickerson, CEO of Pacific Edge Software Inc., of Bellevue, Wash., who worked under Kahn as a senior vice president at Borland, said Kahn was “a terrific promoter, and he knew how to win the hearts of developers. He was a very passionate man, a very clever, high-activity guy.”
Dickerson said Borland in the early days “felt like being in the hit record business. Today, the market is very different. In many ways, Borland is a reflection of how ITs attitude toward application development has changed. Thats why theyre into ALM.”
Kahn declined to comment specifically on the new Borland but did say: “Borland is a fully grown child, and I will let them speak for themselves. It would not be right for me to speak for Borland, any more than it wouldnt be right for a father to speak for a 40-year-old son or daughter,” he said. “My focus is [current company] LightSurf [Technologies] Inc.”
Anders Hejlsberg, a key part of Borlands success as the creator of Turbo Pascal and now an architect at Microsoft, where he led the team that developed C# and contributed to the development of .Net Framework and technologies such as J++ and Windows Foundation Classes, said his 13 years at Borland ranks as “one of, if not the, greatest experiences” of his life.
“I was just 22 years old when I got involved with Borland; I was living in Denmark and had never even been to the U.S.,” Hejlsberg said. “Little did I imagine I would get the opportunity to create something with the effect that Turbo Pascal had. Working there was more than just a job—you were part of something special, creating software that was 10 times better than the competition at a tenth of the price. These days, there is a lot of talk about the value of simplicity and how less is more. Those values were really at the core of the early Borland, and I think they greatly contributed to the companys success.”
As Borlands position with developers began to grow, Microsoft began to take the smaller company more seriously. And when Hejlsberg delivered the Delphi programming environment to Borlands developer base in 1995, the company became a target of the Redmond, Wash., software company. Microsoft picked off key talent from Borland, to the point that then-CEO Del Yocam filed a lawsuit against Microsoft in 1997 over the brain drain, which included Hejlsberg. Other notable defections included that of Paul Gross, who was then Borlands vice president of research and development.
Borland then endured a series of quarterly losses and eventually changed its name to Inprise, apparently hoping a new name would somehow make a difference. In 1999, Borland and Microsoft settled the lawsuit in a private agreement. Microsoft made a $25 million investment in Borland, and the companies entered into a $100 million alliance through which Borland would license core Microsoft technology. Borland continues to license core Microsoft components, becoming the first and only licensee of .Net Framework last year.
Borlands legacy in the software industry is something to build on. “Borland is the trusted name for innovators and those on the leading edge of development,” Gartners Lanowitz said. “Borland has historically been the company that was first to market with new and leading-edge technology, but the best thing about what Borland delivers is the high quality. The quality along with innovation has definitely been Borlands hallmark over the past 20 years.”
The success of Borlands new venture into ALM and against IBM will go a long way in determining how well its next 20 years go.
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