Borland, Farewell my sweet.

Today, May 6 2009, marks the day that Borland, that once great master of all software development has finally recognised there was no other recourse but to up and sell itself off in order to survive.

Back when I was a teenager, in the early 80s and personal computing was coming to the fore – I, and many others, aspired to work for that great company Borland. It was the pinnacle of language development and development tools and we wanted to work there. However, based in Ireland it was never to be.

Also, once upon a time I happened to be working for a very promising young company with a fantastic product line called Segue Software, based in Boston, MA.  Segue also had its troubles but a new CEO saw its fortunes turn and it was climbing to success. This success was noticed by the aforementioned Borland as it tried to re-invent itself as an Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) company.  The same day it was announced that Borland was acquiring Segue, it also announced it was selling its developer tools division (that’s Delphi, JBuilder, and later Delphi for PHP, 3rd Rail line of products).

This was such a bitter-sweet time for many.  I was overjoyed that I was going to work for Borland (childhood dream) – it didn’t matter I wasn’t going to work with the developer tools, working for “Borland” would just be cool.  Sadness also because our little 200-man company was being consumed by a 1200-man behemoth (relatively) and no-matter which way you looked at it, people were going to lose their jobs.  Pretty much the entire US East Coast staff (Segue Head Office) lost their jobs and the office was closed.  Product development labs and Technical Support survived, simply by virtue that it was the product and product skills that were purchased, not the G&A functions – they could go.

I ‘lived the dream’ for the next 2.5 years in the IT department. Despite being remote, I loved working with the rest of the Borland teams as I was intimately involved in the merging/migration of Segue’s systems into Borland’s. I also had the pleasure of working with several departments to architect and deploy several new platforms (such as product downloads and licensing via Intraware, and the companies, SFDC, deployment).  I’ll treasure the time I spent at Borland.

Of course there were several WTF moments. Most significantly, for me, was the company “hanging its hat” on BMS (Business Management Solutions) which ultimately proved to be a hatstand made of jello. Very few, outside of management and that product team, believed in it.  Another significant WTF for Borland was, If you plan to be the Application LIFECYCLE Management company – why divest yourself (for a paltry $27m) of two of the world’s major AppDev toolsets (Delphi and JBuilder). You’ve just removed the feeder market and upsell opportunity into your ALM business. Finally, and internal WTF to get off my chest, on what planet does the IT department belong as a subdivision of the HR department?

Borland will live on in the hearts of many of us who knew what she used to be. I think I left Borland a better place than I found it (as long as you don’t look at the stock price ;), and I made some good friends. At the end of the day, there isn’t much more you can ask from your tenure.
It is sad that today if you ask a typical Software Engineer if they know who Borland is, they’ll respond “Who?” which typifies the company’s slide into obscurity.

I wish the best of luck to my former colleagues, who I’m sure, will be wondering what is to happen next. I also hope that the new owners, Micro Focus International (who?), have good fortune with their ALM drive. Perhaps the Borland name might live on as a brand for a suite of ALM products – who knows what they’ll do.

In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

6 Replies to “Borland, Farewell my sweet.”

  1. Personally, I think the Silk range is likely to be quite secure given its central position within the ALM portfolio. Assuming this to be the case, then it is likely that the new owners will maintain the Austrian development teams and Belfast based Tech Support which is the primary knowledge centre for Silk products.

  2. Some of the fondest coding memories I have are from Turbo Pascal and Delphi 1 onwards. I still go back to it today for prototyping applications quickly. I always thought Borland was an awesome company and couldn’t quite understand why they weren’t doing better. “Inprise” was certainly a WTF moment. Back in the day Delphi was far superior to, say, VB. But VB was still preferred in companies. I heard the mantra “you don’t get fired for choosing MS” as one reason.

    Remember Pascal/Delphi SWAG? I loved using snippets of code from swag to kick start my own interesting creations.


  3. Crikey!

    I learned all i know (kinda) from turbo pascal. Such a shame they faced m$ and failed like netscape, wordperfect, lotus etc… Again, just FUD, unfair practices and bullshit in the corporate world lives out and shame on you borland for giving in so easily.

    Goodbye borland; thanks for all the fish and agreed, swag was awesome, i remember getting my copy from a guy with a compuserve account, heh memories, ooh memories 🙂

    Thanks for this it has brought back some happy times at the beginnings of my coding career!


  4. Well, it was my childhood dream to work for Borland as well, and I finally joined it in 2005 and eventually handled all the regional issues.

    Alas, it was decaying internally, and I left in 2008.

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