Usually, when representatives from a software company like Inprise Corp. come together, it’s for a technology conference – not a rock concert.
But in Winnipeg recently, that trend was reversed. Company employees joined some 60,000 audience members in attendance at a War Child benefit concert featuring big-name performers such as the Tragically Hip. War Child is a charity – of which Inprise is a major sponsor – dedicated to improving the quality of life of children in war-torn areas. At the event, Gail Balfour, ComputerWorld Canada assistant editor, caught up with David Intersimone, vice-president of developer relations for the Scotts Valley, Calif.-based company. They discussed the firm’s recent ups and downs, as well as future strategies.
CWC: A benefit rock concert is a pretty interesting venue at which to meet with a software company. How did Inprise get involved with War Child?
Intersimone: I think every company has some form of charity work they do, whether it’s donations or other kinds of work. And in that respect, we are like any other company. We care about the community; we care about giving things back to the community. I’m sort of this chief evangelist for our developer community worldwide – that’s my job. But we also live in communities. So we help out where we can, whether it’s fund-raising or donating equipment we don’t use anymore or it’s sponsoring events like the [War Child concert]. Many of us have children, and we’re lucky enough not to live in areas where (war-related) problems have happened.
CWC: There’s a bit of confusion about what to call your company these days. It’s still Inprise, but there also seems to be more focus on the Borland brand name.
Intersimone: The way to look at it is the name of our corporation is Inprise Corp. That change was made two years ago – the articles of incorporation were changed, the stock symbol was changed, all of those things were done. We have something like US$244 million cash – we don’t want to spend a few of those millions just to change the name of the corporation back. So we are leaving the name Inprise…but we have a strong brand in Borland. And it’s identified with our development tools. We are trying to remind (users) that the Borland brand is a very well-known brand. Some people say ‘Borland, didn’t they go away, didn’t they change their name?’ So it’s (there) just to remind people.
CWC: Inprise’s proposed merger with Corel a while back got a lot of press. Why Corel, and why did the deal fail to go through? In April, it seemed fine.
Intersimone: There’s no other story besides the financial one. At the beginning, the coming together of the two companies made sense on multiple levels. One was the complementary nature of products. We have development tools, they have end-user/power-user applications. They even have some of our old products in Quattro and Paradox, and we still collaborate with Corel on the Borland database engine, which is at the base of Paradox and Quattro’s access to databases.
And then [Corel’s] move into the Linux world – not with applications, but with their distribution, and our move into Linux with our entire product line – the merger of the two companies, both having Windows products and Linux products, made sense as well. So that was the genesis of the two companies coming together.
And then the deal fell apart because of the financial troubles that Corel had that were not known to us at the time of the original merger discussions.
CWC: Corel has alluded to the possibility of seeking a partnership with Inprise in the future. Realistically, is this likely to happen?
Intersimone: I guess I would say, because of the shared technology we have, that we are still responsible for the Borland database engine and we still have a relationship with Corel. From the standpoint of Linux distribution vendors, we have relationships with many companies – whether it’s Red Hat, Corel, SuSE, TurboLinux, Caldera and others. So, from that standpoint, we want to make sure that our development tools and our enterprise products – the Linux versions – work with those distributions, just as we work with Sun on Solaris for our products and so on.
As for anything else Corel might do, you’d need to ask them.
CWC: You also have a fairly interesting relationship with Microsoft. In some ways you seem competitors in the tools arena, and yet Microsoft owns a portion of your company’s stock.
Intersimone: Yeah, we’ve had a relationship with Microsoft…forever. From the beginning of our company when Microsoft had DOS and we were building Sidekick, [we had to] hook Sidekick deep inside DOS so it could pop up. We’ve been partners with Microsoft, as many companies are, and competitors as well. So I think this whole industry has lots of strange relationships – maybe strange isn’t the right term – but relationships that are both cooperative and competitive. And that’s fine, we choose to compete with Microsoft. We’ve also chosen to go off into other areas, and that’s why things like Linux and Solaris platform (support) and being a multi-platform tool and enterprise solution company helps us not have to compete with Microsoft head-to-head.
CWC: What effect do you see Microsoft’s ongoing antitrust case having on the industry on the whole?
Intersimone: It’s a good question, what’s going to happen in the Microsoft case, because it’s not done yet. For us, we compete with Microsoft, and we’ll (continue) to compete with Microsoft anyway. At the same time, (if the company was split) we’d have to then work with two different groups, or multiple groups. We still have great ties with the operating systems people, so from that standpoint it might make it a little easier for us. You know, we just want Microsoft to play fair in the market. And I think everybody does – we’re affected in certain ways, but other vendors are affected much more. I mean, look at Netscape – their entire business line was directly affected.
CWC: Do you think a Microsoft split will open up the development sphere for other companies and allow them a greater chance of increasing their install base?
Intersimone: I can give you a personal opinion, as opposed to a company opinion. The company opinion is that we are taking a wait-and-see attitude, see what happens with the court case, then see what happens with Microsoft. But my personal opinion is that I think it would be good for the industry. I also think it would be good for Microsoft shareholders.
CWC: Inprise also recently announced that the next version of JBuilder will support the Mac OS X platform. That surprised me a little. How many JBuilder developers actually use Macs?
Intersimone: I don’t know the answer to that. But we do know when we go into enterprise organizations, there are Macintoshes there – they are being used as servers, Web servers as well. So from the server standpoint, having Java and Java Server Pages being served up from high-end Macintosh systems, it’s a perfect fit for Java and JBuilder. At the same time, it fits our strategy of going out to multiple platforms. And for Java, it’s very easy once there’s a JDK ported to that platform. We are always looking to find new developers, and we’ve always been asked ‘When are you going to develop enterprise solutions for the Macintosh?’ So it’s very nice. The reaction at the developer’s conference when we talked about it this year was spectacular – I mean, there were cheers.
CWC: How difficult is it to modify a product like that for Mac?
Intersimone: It’s nothing. Take the binaries, just move them over. And that’s because JBuilder is 100% Java – it just moved over. So the only thing we’re waiting for is the field-testing process with OS X and the JDK. And we are working with Apple directly (on that).
CWC: What advantages will your future Linux initiative, code-named Project Kylix, hold for developers?
Intersimone: Project Kylix is taking our Delphi and C++Builder products, which have (historically) been tied to the Windows platforms, and porting those over to support the Linux operating system, so that developers will be able to take their applications, move them over, recompile them and run them on Linux. Or they can do development specifically for Linux.
There are many reasons to choose Linux. One can be that it’s low cost. Also, from a server standpoint, from a stability standpoint, it’s very good. It doesn’t require much hardware – it’s a very small kernel. And, as some people say, it’s not Microsoft.