Borland revs up business with new-look Turbo tools

Despite re-invention, there is still no sign of a buyer for the company's developer tools line

On September 5, Borland re-entered the IDE market with the Turbo brand of products. The brand first made its name in the 1980s and 1990s by providing fast, cheap programming tools such as Turbo Pascal, Turbo C and Turbo Assembler.

Over the past decade, Borland has crept further and further up-market, and so seen volumes diminish as it simultaneously enjoyed higher margins.

While Borland now has a fine collection of application-lifecycle management tools, their prices has moved them away from their grass-roots: the independent developer community. The open-source movement has also made the Borland brand less and less attractive.

So, in February, Borland decided to divest itself of its IDE products (such as Delphi and JBuilder). While the company has been actively seeking private buyers the ultimate fate of the tools is still uncertain. In the meantime, Borland has reorganised itself internally into two separate entities. The first, which is called Devco, is looking for a buyer and is focused on delivering tools to developers.

This split is already having good effects, says David Intersimone, vice president for developer relations. Speaking on a recent visit to Auckland, he suggested that the split has allowed revenues from IDE sales to be directed towards enhancing the tools.

He painted a gloomy picture of company life over the last seven to eight years, which would see a product release followed by a wave of redundancies, accompanied by rapid turnover of senior management. Hence the decision to split into two companies, Borland and Devco, although the latter is still a working-name and could change.

Devco’s job will be to focus on programmer productivity, while Borland will focus on the wider issue of software-lifecycle management. At the local level, this could mean the company’s Wellington office stays as Borland, while its Auckland office becomes Devco.

The increased revenues for Devco have already resulted in an improved marketing budget, and it has started distancing itself from the Borland name by reintroducing the Turbo brand that was so successful in the past.

The new Turbo products cover the Delphi for Windows, Delphi.Net, C++ and C# languages. They each come in two varieties: the free explorer version and the professional version (NZ$586 plus GST).

The basic difference between the two versions is extensibility. The free explorer versions are locked into the 200-plus components that ship with the products, while the professional versions allow the installation of extra components and downloaded third-party libraries.

Borland Developer Studio will continue as the company’s multi-language, multi-platform offering, although there will likely be a name change with the next release, which is due in the first half of 2007.

To provide product differentiation, multiple Turbo products won’t easily reside on the same machine. This means that if, for example, you develop for Win32 as well as .Net, or if you mix your languages, the Turbo products are not for you.

In practice, the new Turbo products are subsets of the Developer Studio and are not yet as sleek as their forebears. They are really just restricted price points aimed at broadening the appeal of the Borland tools.

Borland has come up with many excellent development products over the years and still probably enjoys much higher brand loyalty than recent revenues would indicate. So, it will be very interesting to see if the Turbo initiative restores the company’s fortunes.

In addition, for many years, Annie Larsen was synonymous with Borland in New Zealand. She’s back in the IT world and setting up a local distribution organisation for the Devco products.

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