Fuller Proclaims Borland, Delphi Are Back

PHILADELPHIA -- The 10th annual Inprise/Borland Conference was the public premiere for its new president and CEO Dale Fuller, as well as for version 5 of Borland Delphi. Thirteen weeks into his new post, Fuller used his keynote address as an opportunity to answer the questions developers have been asking since Del Yocam left the post in April.

After Yocam’s exit, Inprise Corp. (www.inprise.com) announced a second losing quarter this year and made an unthinkable deal: the company accepted a $125 million dollar investment from Microsoft Corp. in return for settling a number of technology disputes.

Fuller insists Borland developers will benefit from the deal if they get past the animosity they feel toward Microsoft. "We’ve been at war with [Microsoft] for years, and that war’s over," Fuller says. He describes the new relationship with the software giant as "co-opetition." But he was sure to stress Inprise’s independence: "They have no hooks in us to make us do anything."

Later at a press briefing, Fuller explained that now that the lawyers are out of the way, Microsoft and Inprise could work together to provide better opportunities for developers.

Fuller also responded to those who predicted the company wasn’t going to survive to see the new millennium, saying Inprise has enough cash to stay afloat but it also has enough to invest more in the development cycle, releasing innovations sooner.

One new product is Borland Delphi 5, which was officially unveiled the next day. Delphi traditionally has been a Windows development tool that is as flexible as C++ and as productive and easy to use as Visual Basic. According to Ben Riga, group product manager of enterprise tools at Inprise, the new release features higher productivity for Internet-enabled applications with support for HTML 4 and XML. "We're trying to give our developers the ability to write their desktop apps to the browser side," Riga explains.

The new version of the development tool features Internet support and an ActiveX object database. Fuller says Inprise is doubling its effort on Delphi. The Windows development tool could use the help. Not many users bought into Delphi 4, and Dave Kelly, vice president of application strategies at the Hurwitz Group (www.hurwitz.com), says the Delphi developer base hasn't grown much over the last few years.

But those that remain are a loyal group. During Fuller’s keynote, the Pennsylvania Convention Center Ballroom was filled with developers devoted to Borland development tools.

On many banners throughout the convention center, the Borland name -- which was recently reintroduced -- was much larger and over-shadowed the Inprise name. The newly designed Inprise Web site also features a new logo with a large Borland behind a smaller Inprise, giving the sense that Borland is back. The company changed its name to Inprise last year. Earlier this year the company announced it would split Inprise into two divisions, one of them regaining the defunct Borland name, but Riga says there is no division anymore. The reason the Borland name was prevalent throughout the convention, Riga explains, was because that is the name people recognize and it is something for Inprise/Borland to capitalize on.

One attendee asked Fuller if he was brought on board Inprise to put the company in a position to be acquired. Fuller responded that he couldn’t say yes or no, instead he said his immediate mission was to get consistency and speed into the product cycle. "Inprise continues to have a variety of assets that would be valuable to other companies," Hurwitz's Kelly says. "I think they've got a valuable commodity: the connection with a reasonably large set of Windows developers that should be a valuable asset for them or other companies."

Fuller came to Inprise from WhoWhere Inc., an Internet company he headed until it was purchased by Lycos Inc. (www.lycos.com) for $1.5 billion [correct amount?]. Before that he developed Powerbooks for Apple Computer Inc. (www.apple.com) and the portable Versas for NEC USA Inc. (www.nec.com).