Borland creates RAD tool for Linux

Borland Software Corp. doesn’t want Linux coding to be the exclusive realm of diehard techies who can work with nothing but a fast editor.

With the release of Kylix, the first rapid application development (RAD) tool for Linux, Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Borland hopes to bring less technically-oriented visual developers into the Linux fold. The target market is developers who already use tools such as Microsoft’s Visual Basic and Borland’s Delphi.

“It is our goal that a Visual Basic developer or a Delphi developer will be able to sit down with Kylix and be building native Linux applications within minutes,” said Michael Swindell, director of product management for RAD product groups at Borland.

Kylix is a two-way visual development environment with an integrated native code compiler. It has an interactive debugger and Borland’s Component Library for Cross-platform (CLX) development, which has 165 reusable, customizable and extensible components designed for rapidly building Internet database and GUI applications.

With NetCLX, which combines browser, server and database technologies, Apache developers will also be able to accelerate their Web server development, according to Borland.

Kylix programmers can take code built for Windows and retarget it for Linux, according to Borland. The company adds that, with the release of the upcoming Delphi 6, users will also be able to retarget Kylix code for Windows.

The issue here is that today’s tools are too complicated, Swindell said.

“Kylix is designed to bridge the gap between Linux and mass application availability by radically simplifying mass application development.”

Chicken or egg

But John Mann, a senior consultant/analyst at Patricia Seybold Group, said support from IBM for Linux will have a grater impact on the adoption of the OS by corporations than a programming tool such as Kylix.

“Something as simple as a programming tool won’t be enough to make a difference,” he said.

However, he does believe that Kylix will find a market.

“I’m not sure they’re talking about a rampant demand as much as they are looking for an opportunity, meaning that if there was no such language, there wouldn’t be any demand for it. But if there is a language, people will spot an opportunity…and so they’ll pick up the product. There are a bunch of programmers that can now work in the Linux environment that previously would be too techie for them,” Mann said.

However, he believes that the really techie developers will stay away from Kylix. “They’ll probably scoff at it. Generally, they don’t want anything except a simple fast editor that doesn’t get in their way. ‘Getting in their way’ is a comment that they have in the sense that some of these ease-of-use features take them longer,” he said.

However, Swindell is not so sure that really technical developers won’t find a use for Kylix. “If they’re going after re-building the kernel and building device drivers, they’re probably going to want to stay with the tools they’re using today. However, if they want to build any sort of application then that’s where even the Linux developer is going to be looking at Kylix because Kylix is focused solely on developing those applications as fast as possible.”

Tracy Corbo, a senior analyst with the Hurwitz Group in Framingham, Mass., feels more strongly than Mann that Kylix is needed. But still, she said, Kylix’s success depends on Linux.

“I feel very confident that Borland put together a good tool set,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any issue of the development environment itself. It really comes down to how much penetration Linux enjoys in the corporate front. I think it’s only really limited by the penetration of Linux itself.”

Salim Naufal, a general manager at Mi7 Micro Solutions in Saint-Laurent, Que., welcomes Kylix. Though his software firm develops mostly in Windows, he has concerns about the stability of the OS and given a chance he would prefer to develop in Windows.

“Sometimes, we as developers see that our customers have trouble with Windows. It would be nice to have a system for business where we have more control.”