It's back to 'Borland' for troubled software maker

A rose by any other name doesn't quite make it, as Inprise, the struggling manufacturer of software-development tools, has discovered.

3 min read
What's in a name? Everything, apparently, for Inprise.

The struggling maker of software-development tools is changing its corporate name back to Borland, the company's original name. The company changed its name to Inprise two and half years ago as part of a new corporate marketing strategy.

The company, once a powerhouse in development tools when operating under the Borland name, is going back to its old name simply because the new one didn't resonate with customers, an Inprise executive said.

"A brand means nothing if no one recognizes it, so if you have one that is enormously valuable, which one should we focus on?" asked Ted Shelton, Inprise's senior vice president of business development.

In 1998, then-chief executive Del Yocam switched the company's name to Inprise as part of a new strategy to enter the consulting-service business and sell e-commerce software to larger companies. By doing so, the company put itself in direct competition with tech giants Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and others.

The new strategy was intended to augment the company's core product offerings. Historically, Borland had provided software tools for individual developers to write software programs.

But during the past two years, the newly named Inprise experienced persistent financial struggles, and only recently has it become profitable again. Under new chief executive Dale Fuller, the company has reorganized and has had two straight profitable quarters. Last month the company reported net income of $8.5 million, or 12 cents per share, compared with a loss of $1.4 million, or 3 cents per share, during the same period last year.

Inprise isn't the first company to revert to an old name. Modem maker U.S. Robotics became part of 3Com when the network equipment maker acquired it for $6.6 billion. When 3Com spun off its modem business earlier this year, the new modem company was rechristened U.S. Robotics.

Analyst Mike Gilpin, of Giga Information Group, had mixed feelings about the Borland name switch.

"I don't know if the name Inprise ever really caught on because a lot of people knew them by Borland," Gilpin said. "But when people think of Borland, they think of the old days, the development tools company, and not necessarily the newer (e-commerce) products. So they'll have to do some marketing work and communicate to the world what they are."

Shelton said the company has been considering the name change for some time. He said Inprise will officially rename itself Borland by the first quarter of next year. The company has been calling itself a hybrid name, "Inprise/Borland," for about the past year.

The renaming decision comes after Inprise's proposed merger with ailing software maker Corel fell through. Now Inprise plans to remain a standalone company, thus the switch in names, Shelton said.

"Borland is a name that's well recognized in the marketplace," Shelton said. "We're refocusing back on our strengths, committing to the developer community; our focus will be on products and services that help them build better applications faster."

In a related move, Inprise on Wednesday announced it has acquired a small, 12-person software company called Bedouin for an undisclosed sum. Bedouin makes software that will bolster Inprise's efforts to enter the market for application service providers--Web sites that rent software over the Web.

Inprise plans to provide the software that will allow software developers to easily make their products available to application service providers.