Impressions of the Developer Studio 2006 World Tour

1. Abstract



The Borland Developer Tools Group is doing a world wide tour to demonstrate the usability and productivity of the Borland Developer Studio. They are also trying to send a clear message to their devoted developers that the Delphi divestment doesn’t denote Dooms Day.


2. Overview



I attended the May 31, 2006, Columbus, Ohio event hosted by Anders Ohlsson. Anders’ official title, with Borland, is Staff Engineer. But it’s worse than that. He’s really in marketing.
Despite that, he’s congenial, intelligent and knows his stuff fairly well.



During the presentation he fielded many questions from the the audience. One thing that surpised me was the standard response to questions that he could not answer. He didn’t say contact support or even look at the FAQ on our website. Consistenly he said “Go to the blogs.”. I even doodled that in big bold letters across the top of one of my pages of notes. Go to the Blogs” was the response to questions ranging from specific code upgrade issues to queries like “What’s the latest dirt on Dev Co?”.



BTW, the most important place to look for answers is the blog of Borland’s Chief scientist Allen Bauer, “The Oracle of Delphi”. He’s who has most freely discussed matters regarding the spin off of the developer tools. NOTE: Anders’ wording and hesitation in that sentence led me to believe Bauer had been a bit more liberal with discussing the matter than he had been been authorized to OR perhaps that the tighter leash on everyone else was chaffing a bit.. It was clear that there was definitely a list of items that could (and likewise could not) be discussed by Borland employees.



3. Attendees



    At the session in Columbus, there were 24 attendees. While I was the only one from the Cleveland/Akron area, there were others from as far away as Cincinnati and Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. Columbus had the largest turn out, of course, with 6 or so of the 30 Delphi programmers at “Safe Auto Insurance” (And yes, several times, several of them apologized for the commercials and emphasized that they were NOT responsible for them). Most people appeared to be small business owners and software architects/analysts in their late forties. Though there were some younger attendees as well including an enterprising college student looking to get into programming for the first time. The heads of the Cincinnati Delphi SIG and the Columbus Delphi SIG were also in attendence.



4. The “Borland” Situation


The first major presentation of the day covered Borland’s divesting of its IDE and database assets. There was one person in the room that had not known of the Borland breakup, and everyone was very curious. Anders was very thorough in his discussion and made it quite clear that the “Developers Tools Group” viewed this as a “fix” for most of the prioritization issues they’d had with the managers over the last few years. Slides were shown with the blog entries of the Delphi Luminaries, such as Marco Cantu and Dr. Bob, praising the split up. It was a very “Look the in-crowd say its OK. You’ll be cool too if you agree.” sort of moment.


One dropped catch phrase that was DevCo could finally perhaps put some “R” back into “R&D”. The Developer Tools Group believes a new investor, with an emphasis in promoting only the development tools, will make better decisions. New management will likely, for example, see the logic in creating a documentation team that will concentrate on improving the help system. Under the old regime, anyone that showed the expertise required to write proper examples for the documentation, was quickly promoted into the actual development staff. The development staff was given limited resources and therefore their contribution to documentation was neglected as other more marketable bullet points took precedence. Everyone hopes this will change (You may wish to skip ahead and read the “safe harbor” statement at this point.)


4.1 The Divestment Time Line


October 10, 2006 – Borland Developers Studio is released. And, I might add, that for the first time in YEARS things are looking up for Borland and they’ve finally done right in a relase. With a product this sound, the future seems stable enough that people will be willing to again make long term investments in Borland development products.


February 8, 2006 – Borland announces its intent to divest itself of the IDE and database tools in order to concentrate on its Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) software. (AKA: The floor drops out from under everyone that thought the future so bright they had to wear shades.)


April 1, 2006 Nigel Brown, VP of Borland’s EMEA sales region, was named as the general manager of Borland’s IDE products. The EMEA region is essentially the European market for the Borland developer tools. We all know that Delphee is VERY big in Europe. Over 50% of the profit earned by the developers tools comes from the European sales. It is hoped that Mr. Brown will be able to reintroduce Delphi to the US market and reclaim some of the success of the past.


May 3, 2006 – The new reorganization structure is announced and the existence of a separate entity within Borland is formalized. The announcement is a broad one with impact way beyond the effect on the “Developer Tools Group”. Included in the announcement is the plan to reduce Borland’s regular full time staff by 20 percent. That’s 300 people gone for an annual savings of $60 million dollars. One item that caught my eye was that the announcement also included rolling the Customer Support department into R&D. The developer’s tools group would include “approximately 180 Borland employees, with sales, marketing and product teams”. Again, there is no specific mention of the Support role. This, perhaps, is one of the reasons Anders did not once say “call support” and instead repeatedly said “go to the developers blogs or news groups”. The focus of the conversation made it appear that the 300 people came from the ALM side of things. However, as the exact same announcement was what defined the “Developers Tools Group”, it seems it would be easy to say “Your not on the list of 180. So, obviously your layoff isn’t Developer Tools Group related.”. In the end though, I suppose it matters not.


Today, June 2006 – The divestiture plans continue on schedule, with a purchase announcement planned for Q2, 2006. The Developer Tools Group, still being referred to as “Dev Co” is now a separate financial entity even as the division of assets, products, and bundled software on “paper” continues to progress. There have been a “large” number of parities interested in the purchase – in the double digit range. These investors fit a very specific profile. We’re told Borland “will not” sell to consolidator or managed entity such as Symantec. They are looking specifically for Venture Capitalists (that will give DevCo its head) and financial investors (that will make DevCo their primary focus).


Anders reiterated that this all was considered “Good News” by explainin that of the 280 employees designated as “Developer Tools Group” employees, only two have left. And both of these employees had planned to leave before the announcement. One departure was due to a marriage. Another was due to visa problems (I’m assuming that’s not the credit card). In actuality, “Developer Tools Group” has brought back several former Borland employees, two were mentioned by name. The only one name I recognized and jotted down was “Steve Shawnessy”. He was the developer of the JDataStorage components.


Beyond – With 15 positions recently announced on Bauer’s blog (Interns and other positions opening up., Some more "DevCo"/Developer Tools Group openings, Even more "DevCo"/Developer Tools Group openings! ), the “Developer Tools Group” continues to be the only division of Borland hiring new employees.


DevCo will, in all likelihood, remain located in Scotts Valley, as the lease on the current building does not expire until 2011 (five years).


One future plan that could not be discussed was how Borland would address the release of the Borland Development Studio 2006 Personal Editions. Personal Editions are the free versions of the Borland developemnt tools. A newsgroup entry, made back in 2005, indicated that something was in the works. Anders confirmed that was true and that everyone would be surprised and very pleased. Considering Microsoft is giving away the professional versions of its compilers, DevCo really needs to do something similar to gain in market share. So, this is definately something to watch for in the upcoming months. Though I personally wouldn’t expect anything before Q3.


4.2 Product Divisions


The division of products is fairly clear and straight forward. This chart has been altered somewhat as the one in the presentation had all of the BDS flavors listed separately to add weight to the DevCo side.

(BTW sorry about the tables in this post. Something deep in the CSS is causing a large gap here. Its some incompatiblity between my themes CSS and the output of Open Office. But I can’t see what it is…)



























DevCoBorland

Developers Studio (Delphi, C++ Builder, C#)

Tempo

JBuilder

CaliberRM

“Peleton” (JBuilder rewritten on Eclipse)

StarTeam

Interbase

Together

JDataStore

Seque Silk

(Borland)Developer’s Network

VisiBroker

4.3 Business Focus



The split personality of today’s Borland was made clear by the
following chart that described each of the new entities.






































DevCovs.Borland

Channel/Direct Sale

vs.

Consulting Sale

Channel/Eshop

vs.

Field Sales/Service Force

Direct Marketing

vs.

Corporate Marketing

Year by Year/Upgrades

vs.

Multi Year Investments

Focus on Code

vs.

Focus on Process

ALM Agnostic

vs.

IDE Agnostic

Developers

vs.

Software Organizations






5. Product Plans


Another main focus, of the session, was the plans for release of the development products. You can download updated versions of the product time lines from the Borland marketing literature. So, I feel no need to list it here. Additionally, all of the plans and predictions will be at the whim of the new owner. Anything discussed in the meeting was pure speculation and subject to change in my mind.


However, I will mention several things that were heavily emphasized in the different presentations throughout the day:



  1. Investment in Win32 technological improvements continue to be on the time line through 2008.


  2. Highlander (AKA Delphi 2007 which is the big .NET 2.0 update) will be released under the new name.


  3. ECO – Model driven database application development allows the production of software applications with “no code”. A full demonstration of this was done and with the State based logic included in the Architect version of BDS, you can produce an application with the functionality of a relatively compled ordering system no manually created code behind it. It was interesting, but is a scheme that might work best in the corporate environment.


  4. Multitier apps are the ‘in’ thing with thin clients sending data to a server program that the communicates to the database server rather than a client communicating directly to the database server.


  5. Refactoring is a major emphasis of BDS 2006 and will continue to be so. Many of the things demonstrated in the refactorying area seemed like they were features inspired by Code Rush. I’ll revisit this as I discuss the Delphi 2006 product.



6. Product Demonstrations


Many of the people in the room, and most people reading this document are already familiar with BDS2006. However, it was my first look at it. So, I will just mention the things that caught my eye.


It is interesting that the design time forms are no longer separate windows but reside on a background.. I’m not sure I like that, but I can see how it would resolve issues with accidentally compiling an exe while the form you are working on is on your second, or third, monitor. On several occasions, I’ve given someone an exe that had the form appearing on a second monitor that they did not have.


I do love the guide lines that appear on the screen as you are arranging the components at design time. They indicate when any edge of your component is aligned with the edge of any component on the form. Additionally each component is designed with a gutter width that tells you how close that component is allowed to the edge of the form. Sweet.


Two neat components were demonstrated, but I’m not sure I’ll use them much. The Control Grid allows you to setup a grid in which you get to put 1 control per cell. It then keeps all of the components in line. I will definitely use this in at least one project that has a screen full of 30 buttons. It will ensure the spacing is kept correctly. It was a royal pain to create that form initially and when it had to be expanded with extra rows and columns. A second similar component is the FlowPanel. Essentially, it allows your form to exhibit the same free flowing interface as a web browser. When the container becomes narrower, your components all drop down below each other. When it becomes wider, they rise up beside each other. I can’t see myself using this one very soon…


The editor also had some improvements that seem to have come straight out of Code Rush. For instance, a colored line running down the left gutter of the editor had different colors at different point. This subtly indicated any line that you’ve edited or inserted. This gives you a visual indication of where you are making changes. This doctored image demonstrates that feature:
Borland Developer Studio 2006's new IDE visual component alignment feature.
Those lines appear only when a component is being moved. Those three sections are examples of me moving Button1, Label1 and Edit1, in that order.


The refactoring stuff was really neat too. The Code Synchronization feature was REALLY cool. You can highlight a section of code and tell it to identify the commonalities between the lines. You can then adjust all of those lines at once and the common parts will change. In this fashion you could change a function name or perhaps add a new parameter without fixing all of the lines individually. I wonder if it will work with the result set of a text search? Hmmm…


Another refactoring tool, again something that CodeRush hinted at in Delphi 5 but was now improved in BDS2006, is the ability to create new methods on the fly from existing code. CodeRush could declare the methods for you with all the parameters you need, but you had to determine the parameters yourself and copy and past your extracted code into the new method. In BDS 2006, you can highlight a section of code and tell it to extract it as a method. The new method will be created and the highlighted code will be replaced with the method call. The neat part is that any variables used in that selection will be passed into the method. If the variable is used in the original code after your selected text, then it is passed by reference. I thought that was really neat.


The only other technologies that really caught my eye (the demonstrations were short) was a design time IDE feature, used in the ECO demonstration. It was called Property Extenders. Basically, a non-visual component dropped on the form can add properties (and events?) to other components on the screen. In this case, an ECO component added an ECO Action property to a normal .NET button. .NET obviously knows NOTHING about ECO. However, the ECO Property Extensions suddenly made those components ECO Aware. In D5 you would have had to create a TECONETButton at design time and build it into your forms. It’s like inheritance through Gene Therapy.


7. Summary


All in all, it was a good trip. I got my first taste of BDS2006 as well as some dirt on Borland/DevCo. Frankly, I think I’d have to agree that the split up is a good thing. Since the management of Borland has, for years, maintained a focus on getting its U.S. profits from the U.S. Top 500 list, it seems the only way to return the focus of the development tools to desktop applications is for the developers to divest themselves of the Borland management. I only wish I could have convinced Anders to take my recommendation back to the board. I think the ALM company should take the Inprise name and allowing the development tools to keep the Borland name. Seriously, it only makes sense!


8. Safe Harbor Statement


I probably should say:


This document contains "forward-looking statements" as defined under the Federal Securities Laws, including the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and is subject to the safe harbors created by such laws. All statements that are not historical are forward-looking. Such forward-looking statements include statements regarding Borland’s strategic focus, near-term and long-term outlook, anticipated financial performance in the coming quarters, the growth of the ALM market and Borland’s ALM solutions, Borland’s plan to seek a buyer of its business dedicated to the Integrated Developer Environment (IDE) (including the Delphi, C++ Builder, C#Builder and JBuilder product lines), the timing of locating a buyer for the IDE products, the effectiveness of the reorganization, the timing and impact of the international restructuring and the cost-savings and effectiveness of any divestiture, reduction in force and geographical consolidation. Actual results could differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements and are based on current expectations that involve a number of risks and uncertainties, including, but not limited to, the results of our exploration of the sale of Borland’s IDE product lines; diversion of management attention from other business concerns due to the proposed divestiture transaction; undisclosed or unanticipated liabilities and risks resulting from the proposed divestiture transaction; our ability to sell multi-product solutions for the application development lifecycle; the effects of a longer sales cycle as we increase our focus on larger enterprise customers; market acceptance and adoption of our products and services including our enterprise software development solutions; our ability to enhance the quality and scalability of our products to meet the needs of our customers; our ability to retain key personnel and hire new leaders to support our business transition; and general industry trends, general economic factors and capital market conditions. These and other risks may be detailed from time to time in Borland’s periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including, but not limited to its latest Annual Report on Form 10-K, and its latest quarterly report on Form 10-Q, copies of which may be obtained from http://www.sec.gov. Borland is under no obligation to (and expressly disclaims any such obligation to) update or alter its forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Information contained in our website is not incorporated by reference in, or made part of this press release

One Comment

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.