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May 2000

The Borland/Inprise "Dance of Death"

By: Tom Nadeau os2headquarters@mindspring.com

One of the best ways to stay in business is to listen to your customers. If you know what people want and supply it, you will be much more likely to prosper than if you blindly ignore the facts. If you allow personal bias, fear, or "conventional wisdom" to dictate your business practices, then death awaits. Somebody else will take your customers, or your customers' needs will simply go unsatisfied.

Thirty years ago that kind of bias was commonly expressed in such narrow-minded practices as racism, sexism, or even nationalism. In some places vestiges of these practices still exist, but the "smart money" is on businesses which do not allow narrow-minded biases to dominate their thinking. Especially in the Web Age, business is supposed to be open to any and all who want to buy their products. Business is supposed to be "transparent."

Which explains why the smart money is not on Borland/Inprise.

In mid-1998, a survey of software developers was published in the magazine *Developer Journal*. When asked which ONE software development environment they preferred, a plurality chose OS/2 Warp as their one favorite environment. With 16% of the market, OS/2 was not a landslide winner, but it was the leader over Windows at 15% and other environments (such as Linux) following close behind. Being in tune with an untapped demand for native OS/2 development tools would therefore seem to be the smart thing to do, but Borland has proven over the last ten years that smart business practices are not their strong suit.

Borland currently does not market or develop its popular tools for the OS/2 platform, neither as a development environment nor as a target platform. This is especially ridiculous when we consider that they would have an open field with few competitors.... What, do you think Microsoft would follow Borland's lead and begin writing development tools for OS/2? Of course not. Microsoft cannot afford to do anything that might legitimize the OS/2 platform, particularly under the current investigative mindset that is beginning to take hold due to the Antitrust case publicity. Since Borland can be quite sure that its main competitor (who has been eating its lunch as well as absorbing its development staff) will be no threat, a survival move on Borland's part would be to listen to what the market wants and provide native OS/2 development tools.

However, the term "OS/2" is never heard from Borland. Borland continues to beat its head on the wall, attempting to fight Microsoft in a battle that it cannot win through direct confrontation. Outflanking Microsoft by encouraging their customer base to flourish on the OS/2 platform might work, but Borland has not even considered it. Meanwhile, IBM has failed to provide the kind of stable, world-class development environments on OS/2 that thousands of ISVs crave. For example, Smack version 2.0 is on hold, awaiting IBM's hoped-for patches and fixes to IBM Visual C++ 4.0 for OS/2.

I would stand in line at midnight and pay good money for a copy of Delphi for OS/2 -- in Java, or C++, or REXX flavors -- if only Borland would ship a full-featured, up-to-date version for OS/2. But Borland/Inprise continues to drown in red ink and waste away, instead of attacking the "safe" platform where Microsoft won't and IBM can't. If Borland won't wise up, the least they could do with their dying breath is open-source the Delphi family and make it available to people who are more in-touch with what the marketplace demands. --

Tom Nadeau is the author of Are You Ready for SEVEN LEAN YEARS? http://www.bmtmicro.com/catalog/sevenleanyears.html His web site is OS/2 Headquarters -- http://www.os2hq.com/

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