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Borland assures IDE users

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Borland Software insists it's "business as usual" for programmers using its tools, as the company continues to hunt for an investor to turn its IDE operation into an independent business.

David Intersimone, vice president of developer relations and a Borland veteran, told The Register that "support calls and the roadmaps are still happening", with updates planned for all products, including the JBuilder and Delphi integrated development environments (IDEs). An Eclipse-based version of JBuilder will be demonstrated by Borland at this month's EclipseCon 2006 in California.

"It would be different if we had stopped and said we were selling off the source code and some developer licenses. Nothing has stopped," Intersimone said.

Borland announced its decision to sell the IDE portion of its operations last month, amid declining revenue from the licensing of its development tools, and following the arrival of newly appointed chief executive Tod Nielsen.

Intersimone said Borland's goal is to attract an investor who could "create this new company that is focused on developers, the code and the magic". Up to 300 Borland staff are expected to move to the new company. Borland is believed to have had interest from 12 potential buyers.

Both a potential investor and the new company will be challenged to make money from tools, as Borland saw licensing revenue decline in the face of competition from free and open source (notably the Eclipse framework).

Intersimone believes the new business can overcome this by charging existing customers maintenance fees, selling services (such as training) to developers, and by building features in tools not available in the basic Eclipse framework that make developers more productive. A potential area of innovation is peer-to-peer debugging.

Of course, the spin-out path does not necessarily guarantee success. Remember WebGain and BEA Systems? BEA spun-out WebGain with a view to letting the latter focus on tools while it built Java runtimes, saying the two would partner closely. WebGain subsequently went out of business, thanks to bad product execution, under resourcing, and the arrival of open source tools.

Like BEA, Borland expects to partner with the tools spin-out, while it focuses on its software delivery optimisation (SDO) strategy and application lifecycle management (ALM). According to Borland, IDEs and SDO have different marketing, communications and sales models, facilitating the need to "streamline".

That overlap, though, doesn't seem to have troubled rival IBM, who will continue to go to market with both IDEs in the form of WebSphere and ALM through Rational.

Intersimone believes Borland's IDE business will succeed where WebGain failed. Unlike WebGain, Borland's tools already have a "healthy base of revenue from around the world and a large ecosystem that has been supporting the products for years," he said. ®

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