After nearly being knocked out for good by Microsoft, software maker Borland is back on its feet and eager for a rematch.
Borland, in the midst of a turnaround after years of financial struggles and strategic missteps, is preparing to go head-to-head against Microsoft next year with new programming tools that allow developers to build software for Microsoft's Windows operating system and its overarching .Net software strategy.
Borland's suite of tools, code-named Galileo, will
be positioned to compete against Microsoft's popular Visual Studio.Net tool suite, said Ted Shelton, Borland's chief strategy officer.
The Galileo bundle, set to debut early next year, will include a new version of Delphi, Borland's key development tool, and other languages that have yet to be announced, Shelton
As the largest independent toolmaker, Borland stands a good chance of
establishing a successful business with Galileo, analysts said. Borland intends
to be a sort of Switzerland of development tools, supporting the two major
programming models, the Java and Microsoft.Net development
Borland is hoping to position itself as an alternative for developers who want
to target .Net, but who do not want to be locked into Microsoft's programming
tools and technologies.
"They want to get to the developers who won't want to use Visual Studio to begin
with," Gartner analyst Mark Driver said. "At best, it's 5 percent of
the market, but 5 percent of 5 or 6 million developers is sizable. That's a good chunk of change, and they're not going to throw that away."
Driver said some developers fear that if they use Visual Studio.Net, they will
eventually be locked into using Microsoft's SQL Server database, Exchange Server and
other software from the company.
Galileo will work with Microsoft's .Net Framework, which simplifies
and automates many software development tasks and helps software run across
multiple servers and computers. It will also support Microsoft's Common Language
Runtime, which allows software developers to use many types of programming
languages to write applications that run on Windows and Windows-based server
The tool bundle will support several languages, Shelton said. "The (languages)
we have been asked for are Visual Basic and C#," Shelton said. A Java language
tool is not expected to be part of Galileo.
Visual Studio.Net--Borland's target--is central to Microsoft's .Net strategy to
move computing to the Web. The .Net plan includes new versions of the Windows
operating system and new server software. Visual Studio.Net supports more
than 20 languages, including Visual Basic.Net, Visual C++, Visual C#, and Visual
J#, and allows programmers to build software using Web services.
Internal computer systems and systems residing in multiple companies are linked by Web services.
While Galileo may steal some tools business from Microsoft, ultimately the tool
bundle could well benefit Microsoft's .Net strategy because it will help popularize
that system and increase the pool of programmers who use and understand .Net.
"Anything Borland does will never be a threat (to Microsoft). The vast majority
of .Net developers will use Microsoft's Visual Studio," Driver said. "Borland
will play off the fears--and it's a real concern--that the developers will have
continued lock-in to Microsoft products via .Net. If you are a shop with heavy
investments in Oracle and Microsoft, you might be more attracted to Borland.
Borland's interest is to be more well-rounded and to support more products (from a variety of software makers)."
Back to the future
Borland's decision to go head-to-head with Microsoft on the tools front may seem a fatal mistake, if history is any indicator. A software powerhouse in the '80s and early
'90s, Borland saw its fortunes collapse
largely as a result of competition with Microsoft, which undercut Borland's pricing and
hired away 34 of its key executives.
Fighting for its survival and desperate for cash, the company in 1999 even
received a $125 million cash infusion from Microsoft. In return, Borland gave
Microsoft the blueprints for much of its key technology at the time, and
settled long-standing patent disputes.
Now, after nearly a decade of struggles, which included a name change and a
failed attempt to focus on selling e-business software, the company has
rebounded under the helm of Chief Executive Dale Fuller. The company is
returning to its roots as a software tool maker and has changed its name back
to Borland from Inprise.
The company is now the market share leader
in Java tools, and is also building tools for the growing wireless, Linux and
Web services markets.
In its latest financial report, Borland said its second-quarter revenue
grew to $59.7 million from $56 million as software license revenue climbed 5
percent to $50.1 million.
Shelton said the company believes his company can compete with Visual
Studio.Net--and grab its share of customers.
With its own .Net tool, Borland executives say they will target customers who
don't want to get trapped in an all-Microsoft environment and want to use rival
Java technology to build their computing systems.
Shelton said Galileo is important because Borland has "a big motivation
to make non-Microsoft technology work well with the Microsoft environment.
For customers who want to use a mixed stack, we will provide a better set of
tools for them."
Borland has already cut deals with BEA Systems
and IBM to broaden its reach in
Shelton said Borland plans to offer features not currently available in
Visual Studio.Net, such as the ability to "model" software--that is, build
graphical representations of it--so programmers don't have to write all
the code by hand.
And Borland clearly is banking on the population of software developers and
information technology managers looking for an alternative to Microsoft, which has angered some of its customers with a new licensing plan.
Analysts said that is one reason for the growing popularity of the Linux
operating system, StarOffice productivity software and other alternatives to
Borland has already made inroads in the Microsoft community with more than
1 million developers using Delphi, a tool that competes with
Microsoft's Visual Basic language. Delphi allows programmers to develop software
quickly with a type of product commonly referred to as a RAD (rapid
application development) tool.
The move to build a tool for .Net is also one way for Borland to retain its
loyal base of Delphi customers. "The Delphi RAD business unit is 25 percent of
our revenue, and we want to keep it that way," Shelton said.
"We think we can offer a development environment that gives people everything they need with
.Net, but also succeeds in mixed environments" of Linux, Unix and application servers. "We
think we can grow that customer population."