Borland: No buyer for tools line yet

Borland plans to sell off its faltering JBuilder Java IDE business, as well as its Windows tools platform, including Delphi, but so far nobody's interested

Nearly a month has passed since Borland's announcement so we spoke to Borland's Erik Frieberg, vice president of product marketing and strategy, about the company's intentions, and to get a progress report on the planned sale of Borland's developer tool lines.

Why is Borland exiting not only the Java IDE business, but the Windows tools business also?

What we're doing is, basically, Borland is committed to developers. And what we're focusing on is, "How can we add value to the developer?" And what we've seen is that specific to the JBuilder IDE and the Delphi programming environments that [exist] today, those are two among many types of IDEs, tools, and environments developers work in.

So, Borland's always been about choice and been a bit agnostic about language and platform. We're in essence, I'll say, exiting our JBuilder business as the Java IDE business, but then we're still committed and focused on the developer, very much focused on .Net development, Java development, C++ development, any type of development and packaged app customisation and integration. We're moving out of IDE to more of an ALM focus. IDEs are just literally a point product area. They're one of the things that developers use. And what we've seen is the bigger impact that developers can have for the organisation is more around the lifecycle. The lifecycle has a lot more impact on success or failure and also impacts the development projects [more] than the IDE does.

How much impact did Eclipse and the commoditisation of the Java IDE market have on your decision to sell off JBuilder?

It was one of the factors, along with the fact that we actually want to support multiple tooling environments, not just one in particular. So we will — while we are getting out of the Delphi business as an IDE — [Microsoft's] Visual Studio is a significant portion of our strategy going forward. And supporting .Net developments is something that we're doing today. And, if you look — from an ALM perspective — we are adding to Visual Studio Team System requirements management, modeling, quality and testing, and other aspects to that lifecycle, versus just an IDE that focuses on personal productivity.

What were some of the other factors in your decision?

It was that we didn't want to focus on one IDE, as [in] JBuilder versus Eclipse. And also, there's more than just IDEs. If you're doing PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) development — Ruby on Rails, XML — there's all types of tooling and things developers use to create applications today. So, it was a choice of moving out of a point-specific IDE into an environment like Eclipse that supports a broad set of tooling. So, it's really around focus.

Instead of focusing on a specific IDE, we can focus on the lifecycle. And Eclipse, while having an impact through commoditisation, on the reverse side provided an opportunity because Eclipse is not just an IDE, it's an integration framework, and it provides us a great integration framework to bring all of our ALM capabilities to bear through multiple roles within the software development process.

Do you have any buyers lined up for Delphi and the JBuilder businesses?

No, we don't have any buyers lined up. We have had, I think, over ten, I think the number is up to 12, interested parties right now looking at this. So, there's a lot of interest there.

You say there are interested parties, but they're not buyers. Does that mean they've looked at it and then decided no, or what's the deal there?

It's just part of the process. We've had over ten entities express interest in acquiring these assets.

Do you expect any announcement shortly?

No. There's a process that we're working through with the bankers. Our bankers are Bear Stearns; we've laid out a process. And, since the announcements, we've had interest expressed.

Can you tell me who some of the interested parties might be? And how much money you might get for selling these off?

I'm not the right person to comment on that. The key issue is that, what [new Borland CEO Tod Nielsen] did do with the [Borland] board is express [that] it's more around finding the right buyer, it's not about finding the best price. So, it is a board-level commitment that it's finding the best buyers because we have and will have a lot of joint customers going forward. We need to find the right buyer who will be synergistic with Borland going forward, and it's not just about selling the assets at the best price.

When you say it's about finding the best buyer, does that mean it will be somebody who would continue with these products?

Oh, absolutely. Not just continue [but] invest in them, build the business. And we will still have a lot of integration and synergies between these products as IDEs and the ALM lifecycle.

What's been the reaction? Has there been a lot of uproar among the Delphi and JBuilder users? I imagine they can't be too happy about this.

No, actually, all of the user groups that I've looked at, if I look at the blogs and things, it's actually been very positive. So it really is around enthusiasm for these products. And the users of the products realise that because we're not focused on financial gain, and we're focused on their longevity and their commitment to the product. We'll find a buyer who's going to take care of them very effectively. Honestly, I actually expect customer expectations [to go] up about the commitment to the products themselves.

Could you just elaborate on your relationship with Eclipse at this time?

Yes. We were one of the founding members of Eclipse. So, Borland and a few other companies have been in Eclipse since day one. Today, we're [at the] strategic developer level within Eclipse, which is the highest level an ISV can have. And, we're behind Eclipse. We are leading specific projects within Eclipse. We've had such great success with those projects that Eclipse has asked us to lead other projects. And, we are also moving a significant portion of our tooling that — in essence the requirements management, the modeling, SCM (software configuration management) components — to have visualizations within Eclipse.

I guess a lot of people probably would not have been surprised that you're getting out of the Java IDE business, but I think perhaps there is some surprise about selling off Delphi. Is there anything more you can say about why that shouldn't be a surprise, or do you understand why it might be a surprise?

I think because people thought it was evident in the media that we were having declining revenues in the Java IDE business, but Delphi was actually helping in increasing revenue business for us. And people most often associate selling apps with, maybe, trouble. And what really it was around is focus. It's not that the Java IDE or the Delphi IDE is bad business, it's [that] our focus is on ALM. I heard a great analogy: armies tend to fight a lot better when you burn the bridges behind them. And so, by getting focused on the ALM lifecycle, it gives Borland just [a] clear focus on what we need to be successful at.

Tod Nielsen is the new chief at Borland. Was it his decision to sell these off, or were there a lot of people involved? How did this come about?

I think this is a decision that we've been looking at for an extended period of time, and Tod was the CEO on duty when we actually made the decision. So, Tod was a big part of that decision and basically sanctioned the decision to go forward.

But this had been thought of before he came to Borland?

Oh yes, it was in progress long before Tod got on board.

Borland, with its ALM strategy, SDO, is competing against Rational, which is established in that field, and Microsoft, which is not established, but, of course, is Microsoft. How do you compete with companies like that?

Actually, why our customers select us is really around choice and heterogeneity. Microsoft and IBM both have compelling offerings in the ALM space. But, Microsoft Visual Studio Team System is clearly for .Net development — and only .Net development. And, it's a great solution for that. And, [at IBM Rational] people like Danny Sabbah, who [is in charge of Rational's] vision, have said in public [that] the Rational tools are for facilitating WebSphere development.

So, if you're a .Net developer, Visual Studio Team System is a great choice. If you're a WebSphere deployment shop, Rational is an alternative. And those two market segments, that's where those two companies play. Borland is the choice of companies who have heterogeneity, have other infrastructure besides just Java WebSphere. So, if you're BEA or open source or have a mix of these environment[s], we basically provide the credible alternative to those proprietary vendors, who are basically pushing their runtime stack, not their tooling.

What has been the reception to your SDO strategy, and what percentage of your revenues is coming from that?

Our SDO strategy maps to our ALM tool products, and I don't know the specific revenue percentage.

Is there anything else that you wanted to touch on, such as future offerings from Borland?

Yes, I guess there's two points I would make. One is that the reception [to] our message and our vision for SDO has been tremendous, and that's one of the contributing factors [to us focusing on ALM] and to move away from the IDE business. Because the reception was so good, it gave us the ability to say [that] we can build this as a standalone business with tremendous growth, and we want to put more resources towards ALM, and we got those resources by shifting away from the IDE focus.

Why are people seeing such a need for ALM these days, when they didn't perhaps five or 10 years ago?

I think it's a maturity of the software development process, where people understand that productivity and quality aren't measured at the individual basis, they're measured at the team and organisational level. And that capabilities and process focus that enable a team in the organisation to be more predictable, more successful, are far more important than individual capabilities at developer desktops. The second point I was going to make is that we aren't moving away from developers. We touch more developers with our ALM products today than we do with JBuilder as a standalone product. So, more developers access requirements through [Borland] Caliber, more developers use modeling technology [in] Together. More developers use software configuration management in StarTeam.

Does Borland have any shows or any major announcements coming up in the next few weeks?

Yes, we'll be making some announcements at EclipseCon, and I'm sure [we will] be happy to brief you about those announcements.

What would those be about?

One is around the developer process and productivity and how we're advancing the mission of Eclipse. [It is] directly at our ALM message.

Can you be specific about what that will be?

If I do, it'll [eliminate] the thrill later on.

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