Inprise Corp. Rolls Along After Month of Turmoil

It's difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel for Inprise Corp. (www.inprise.com), a company that had an extremely chaotic month in April. Inprise kicked off the month by dropping CEO Delbert Yocam and CFO Kathleen Fisher, followed by announcements of a dismal earnings report. Then the board of directors brought in Dale Fuller as interim CEO, a man who oversaw the acquisition of his company in his last top role.

There’s been a lot of movement, but what does it all mean? The company denies any talk of being acquired. So that’s out. Others argue that all the activity is just top-level suit shuffling and that Inprise will survive on the merits of its ingenuity. But the high-tech world is rough, and survival takes more than development expertise. To exist, and excel, takes marketing, and that hasn't been one of Inprise's strong suits.

As fate would have it, a test of Inprise’s, and Fuller’s, marketing savvy has quickly come to the table. In May, Inprise's Borland arm announced version 3.0 of JBuilder, the company's development tool for building Java business and database applications. Touting comprehensive support for the latest Java 2 platform and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB), JBuilder 3.0 will be available for Windows sometime this month.

Despite competition from Symantec Corp.'s VisualCafe and Microsoft Corp.'s J++, Borland's JBuilder senior product manager Klaus Krull says Inprise's product has never had a stronger position in the enterprise space. He says that by sticking with pure Java, keeping development platform independent and working with the Java 2 standards set forth by Sun Microsystems Inc., JBuilder is gaining the attention of many large corporations.

Dave Kelly, vice president of application strategies for the Hurwitz Group Inc. (www.hurwitz.com), says the next couple of quarters are going to be particularly interesting to see what path Fuller intends to take Inprise along. The move to get Fuller to be CEO scares some developers. Fuller's last strategic move as a CEO was to oversee the acquisition of the company he was working for, WhoWhere Inc. (www.whowhere.lycos.com), by Lycos Inc. (www.lycos.com).

Inprise’s 1999 annual stockholders meeting, set for June 4, could shed some light on what Fuller and the board of directors has planned. "It can be a big deal," Kelly says. "With all of the changes, they're probably going to be a number of significant discussions on how to move the company forward."

Some moves the company is already making include beefing up its Web presence, possibly with a developer portal, and continuing with the separation of Inprise and Borland, perhaps financially or publicly.

For now, the company is showing confidence in JBuilder. The product includes visual tools and reusable components for rapidly creating platform-independent applications, servlets and applets; integrated and automated CORBA support for reducing the time and effort required to develop and deploy robust, highly-available CORBA clients, servers and servlets; and wizards and visual designers for creating reusable JavaBeans and EJBs.

Not counting the educational edition without the GUI that Borland provides to universities to teach students, JBuilder comes in three versions: Standard, which is the basic application development tool; Professional, which provides database and servlet functionality as well as some source code; and the Enterprise version, which helps build distributed applications.