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Borland IDE segues off stage left…

Interesting times for Borland developers, once again.

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Comment So, Borland is selling its IDE business (see El Reg passim; links at bottom of article) and buying Segue, a well-respected “quality optimisation” and software testing company (as well as a currently trendy verb: segue: \SEG-way; SAYG-way\, intransitive verb 1. To proceed without interruption; to make a smooth transition).

I wonder how smooth this segue will be? As usual, Borland leaves me slightly confused as to the future of its loyal IDE customers and Reg Developer columnist Tim Anderson has also been reporting somewhat confusing feedback from his Borland contacts in his Blog here, here and here.

When I asked Tim about this, he said: “There's no doubt that Borland intends to leave the IDE market – unless, I suppose, it can't find a buyer and changes its mind. Some key questions, it seems to me, are:

• “Who will buy?

• “Why has the disposal been announced before a buyer is found?

• “Will JBuilder and Delphi/C++/.NET be split (this is where I have conflicting information)?

• “How will Borland untangle the integration of its ALM and IDE lines in its dealings with a new entity?

• “Has Borland bled its IDE team so dry that there isn't a viable IDE company to sell? - This would be the force of an anonymous comment on my Blog with respect to JBuilder; Delphi is in a better state but note the recent departure of chief scientist Danny Thorpe for Google.

“It's not exactly a good pitch to prospective buyers,” Tim says. “There’s no money in IDEs these days, anyone want to buy our IDE company?”.

I put some of these questions to Laurent Séraphin (EMEA product solutions director, Borland) and, as you’d expect, he was certain that Borland was acting in the best interests of its loyal customers. Basically, he says, Borland’s IDE business is profitable, but Borland simply hasn’t the resources needed to service both its IDE and its ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) customers as it would wish. Its proactive announcement of the disposal is simply evidence of its transparent honesty and good faith; and he has every confidence that Borland’s IDE customers will find a comfortable home in the not too distant future. And there is considerable interest out there in buying the IDE business, but he’s unable to name names…

Nevertheless, I suspect the path to a bright future which is so clear to Borland will be less clear to its long-suffering supporters and customers. The anonymous comment on Tim’s Blog, noted above, suggests there may be some anger out there.

Which is a pity, because I have a lot of time for Borland still. I think its vision is correct, I think the development industry is moving inexorably away from IDEs (leaving them to Eclipse; and possibly Visual Studio) and that application management and QA is where the value-add is. I think Borland’s acquisition of Teraquest was particularly far-sighted (it gives it an almost unique process improvement capability for where it wants to be) and its acquisition of Segue is pretty clever too. It now has a really good ALM story higher up the stack where it can truly add value, and it still has some sort of a stake at the IDE end (even if this does end up “owned” by Eclipse).

On the other hand, Borland will now be competing head-on with the likes of Compuware and other companies with an established story in the Enterprise application quality management space. Serena Software CEO Mark Woodward, for example, welcomed Borland’s new direction: “Borland’s news is indicative that Serena's Change Governance strategy is the right one and validates what we see as critical in addressing changing customer needs. As this market evolves, tighter integration of life-cycle management is imperative to meet customer requirements. In addition, this adds muscle behind Serena's Eclipse/ALF initiative and solidifies the direction we have charted. It is great to see the category we are defining for our customers to succeed in effectively managing change is causing others to take notice and follow this charge.” But this rather implies Serena thinks it has this stuff covered already. Borland may find joining in rather tough going and may also find it difficult to carry a large part of its development community along with it.

Or, it might open up “application lifecycle management” and process improvement to the sort of SME that has barely heard of Compuware or Serena and thinks that rigorous testing is a pretty cool idea. We shall have to wait and see – but we wish Borland luck and are very interested in feedback from El Reg readers….®

David Norfolk is the author of IT Governance, published by Thorogood. More details here.

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