Interview: Borland's Price spins db Webs

Borland is reinventing itself once again. Once it was the Sidekick and tools company, then it was the Quattro Pro/Paradox company, then it was the upsizing company.
Written by Martin Veitch, Contributor

Borland is reinventing itself once again. Once it was the Sidekick and tools company, then it was the Quattro Pro/Paradox company, then it was the upsizing company. Now, with the release of IntraBuilder, a development environment for database Web deployment, it wants to be in the thick of intra-net tools. PCDN spoke to Matthew Price, sales and marketing director of Borland UK.

PCDN: What's the release schedule for IntraBuilder?

It's available next month. There'll be a three-tier pricing model. Client-server (£1,279) gives you links to core database servers like Informix, DB2 and Oracle; Professional (£349) is for users expecting more than one simultaneous hit; and Standalone (£69) is a version that is good for one hit at a time. Trial downloads are also available from our Web site.

Who are you targetting?

It's architected from the ground up for intra-nets. There's a big opportunity; it's the first Web-driven database engine and has been described by [Netscape co-founder] Marc Andreesen as Visual Basic for the Web. At the moment [corporates] are using things like [Borland] Delphi for mission-critical database development but things like phone books, knowledge base technical databases and contact databases can be created in Intra-builder, or forms and reports that squirt JavaScript across the Web. For something like a video store which made its LAN-based database in [Borland] dBase or [Microsoft] Access, you can now have that information available to everybody on the Web.

When did Borland begin to reinvent itself as an Internet/intra-net tools vendor?

The biggest change probably happened 18 months ago when we realised that our core competency was software tools. We saw it as being a very large field so we needed to specialise in growth areas. Around February we specialised in two areas: client-server workgroup tools and intra-net tools.

Client-server probably made up 12-15 per cent of Borland UK sales a year ago; this quarter it will probably be 30 per cent. I'm just about to double the size of my client-server sales unit. But one thing we realised is that this is a not a young market. It's pretty mature and has some pretty established players there. The thing on the horizon even a year ago was the 'I' thing, the Internet and the way that client-server and other applications could be deployed over intra-nets. Intra-net is really just a standard protocol to help users deploy applications.

But everybody is blithely talking about enabling Internet/intra-net products...

Everybody is bringing out Internet-enabled products and with regard to the technology it's really very easy. But it's like supporting a new operating system. You can Internet-enable only so much, then you have to put a stake in the ground and architect from the ground up. We have the know-how. We're working with Sun at the component level of the Java language, with Netscape we're a big supporter of the JavaScript and Open Network Environment (ONE), and we will work with Microsoft on Internet Explorer. Borland, as a smaller independent firm, can cover everybody.

What impact will that strategy have on your channel mix?

We want to add more pre-sales and technical support but our model is to do that with a Hoskyns, a Buchanan or other integration expert. You'll see us working more closely with VARs and system integrators. We've signed up a lot of partners in system integration. Tools are one thing but you need to build infrastructure when you're developing new markets, and you need people already in there to help you.

Former Borland CEO Philippe Kahn was a huge evangelist for object/component software. What plans do you have for Internet ActiveX or Java components?

We've got 12 years experience of developing object-based software but we're not looking at being a component software supplier. Where do you make the money on components? We're looking at management tools, for instance through the recent acquisition of Open Environment, distribution and enabling software for intra-net deployment.

The Internet market has seen a lot of merger and acquisition activity recently. Will Borland be joining in?

I certainly wouldn't rule it out. I don't know of anything on the cards but it's like the early days of the automobile market. A number of smart Internet companies have sold already.

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