Borland comeback continues with tools purchase

TogetherSoft even more together

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Borland Software Corp is buying TogetherSoft Corp in a $185m transaction which dramatically expands its .NET and Java tools' application life-cycle management capabilities,

writes Gavin Clarke.

Scotts Valley, California-based Borland, which has 40% of the Java tools market and is number two on Windows behind Microsoft, announced plans yesterday for the cash and stock deal, which will see TogetherSoft's Control Center design and analysis tools integrated with Borland's JBuilder and Windows tools.

The deal is Borland's third acquisition this month, following BoldSoft MDE AB and Starbase Corp. Borland senior vice president and chief strategy officer Ted Shelton said Borland is "re-defining itself to address the entire application lifecycle management."

"Integrated development environment (IDE) and design tools give us an edge," Shelton told ComputerWire. "Our driver is revenue growth."

The deal has added irony, given Borland now gets its hands on the former WebGain Inc's assets. The WebGain Studio, Visual Café, Structure Builder, Business Designer and Quality Analyzer tools and the company's developer community were recently acquired by Raleigh, North Carolina-based TogetherSoft. Borland had held its own discussions to acquire WebGain before TogetherSoft jumped in.

TogetherSoft chairman and co-founder Peter Coad yesterday stuck to his decision to buy WebGain's assets. "I still consider that a strong and good move," he said. Coad joins Borland as chief executive for strategy, reporting to chief executive Dale Fuller.

Borland made it clear, though, that the Visual Café IDE will not be revived. Instead, Borland will provide a migration path to its JBuilder Java IDE, while JBuilder and Control Center will be integrated by the middle of next year. Despite that integration, versions of Control Center will be made available for use with other vendors' IDEs

Control Center will also be integrated with Borland's Delphi, C++ and Kylix products for Windows and cross platform development with Linux. Borland, which has a history of competition with Microsoft over Windows developers, escalated that with plans to attract .NET developers.

While Borland believes Microsoft Corp's Visual Studio.NET IDE is a strong product, it feels Microsoft's lifecycle management tools lack specialist features found in Control Center. "We are going to be able to help [Microsoft] address the needs of enterprise developers," Shelton said.

The TogetherSoft acquisition significantly expands Borland's global research and development, and sales reach. Borland will acquire TogetherSoft's facilities in Prague, Czech Republic, and St Petersburg, Russia, and add 80 sales staff to approximately 250 sales people and sales engineers.

Shelton said staff would be lost in areas of overlap but did not provide further details. However, Borland senior vice president of software products, Frank Slootman, called the deal "expansion not consolidation".

Caution was sounded by analyst Merrill Lynch, though, who yesterday said Borland faced "implementation risks" exacerbated by the challenging IT spending environment.

The acquisition was welcomed by former Borland vice president, Jonathan Rosenberg - whose new company is a user of JBuilder. Rosenberg, chief technology officer and co-founder of GeoTrust Inc, said it is important JBuilder provides back-end server functionality like management of applications, bug tracking and graphical debugging of web services.

Application development is error prone today, Rosenberg said, but development cycles have sped-up which creates problems. "There was this time when people built enterprise software and because you didn't ship that often everyone got it right. Now you are doing extreme publishing and deploying to a web server in a week," Rosenberg said.

Underscoring Borland's acquisition is a sense of double take. Just three years ago Borland was burning through $10m a quarter and seemed doomed to sink, as Fuller took the helm. What followed was a period of restructuring and a drive towards profitability.

Shelton said the TogetherSoft deal was part of that ongoing process to re-launch Borland. "The first phase was plugging the leaks, the second phase was to bail the water and now we are high in the water and going places," Shelton said. "I like seeing Borland come back to life," Rosenberg added.

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