CodeGear: Working hard to rejuvenate its legacy

Justin James jumped at the chance to interview an executive at CodeGear. Discover what the CodeGear developers are working on.


Michael SwindellImagine my surprise when I received an e-mail asking if I would be interested in talking to Michael Swindell, VP of Products at CodeGear (which used to be the Developer Tools Division of Borland). Would I? YES! Not only is Borland a company that I have respected and loved since I was 14 or 15-years-old (when I had my first encounter with Turbo Pascal), but I also know that many TechRepublic members feel the same way. I ended the interview feeling more excited to try new things than I have in a long time.

Borland: The good old days

I bet the name Borland conjures up fond memories for nearly every programmer who has more than 10 years of experience. I cannot recall ever hearing or reading a bad word about the company.

Borland's inexpensive Turbo line of products was better and less expensive than the competition and introduced thousands of people to programming. Delphi 1.0, released around the same time as VB 3, was technically superior in every measurable aspect. When I was a college student, I was so impressed by Delphi that I spent $99 of my money to purchase an academic license even though I didn't need it for any class.

For reasons that I can only guess, Borland was the development tools analogue to Novell: a great product that lost to Microsoft's offerings despite technical superiority and a commandeering market share that eventually evaporated, followed by a period of endless searching for a new business model.

CodeGear: The development goes on

CodeGear was spun off from Borland about two years ago. Many of the original developers of Turbo C, Turbo Pascal, Turbo Assembler, and Delphi are still with the company. In June 2008, CodeGear was acquired by Embarcadero Technologies, a developer of database programming tools. Michael compared Embarcadero's products to what would happen if Delphi was made for databases and not applications. This combination is a great fit for CodeGear's products given that most applications have a database somewhere in them.

CodeGear is still continuing the development of its native application tools, which include Delphi and C++ Builder. The company is also working hard to improve its relationships with databases (the Embarcadero acquisition helps). Michael's exact words were "re-energizing our focus on native tools."

Many of CodeGear's customers are shops that originally went to managed code environments due to the quality of the tools and frameworks but need more performance or low-level access than managed code can provide. These customers are finding that CodeGear's offerings have the comprehensive, tested libraries combined with the speed of native apps.

CodeGear's .NET products are expanding in new directions, which include RIA development and targeting other platforms (through systems such as Mono). One big push is to get all of its products 100% supportive of Unicode, which will give the company a huge advantage in capturing mindshare around the world and for developers writing applications for sale around the world (more than 50% of CodeGear's business is outside of the United States).

CodeGear has released inexpensive Turbo editions of some of its products; these editions focus on the language and not the framework. CodeGear is also building a community of developers that can provide the same level of quality content that MSDN subscribers have enjoyed for years; this is an important step towards expanding the company's market share. CodeGear's next generation of native application development tools (Delphi and C++ Builder) are Tiburon and Commodore. Tiburon is focused on global development and adding new language features, while Commodore is aimed at fully leveraging 64-bit platforms and multicore processors (this parallels Microsoft's .NET strategy).

Stay tuned

In my next post, I'll explain why I'm so excited about two of CodeGear's latest products: 3rdRail and Delphi for PHP.


Disclosure of Justin's industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides.


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Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

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