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Delphi for Linux Likely Says Borland Executive

Aug 30, 1999, 06:12 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dwight Johnson)

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Michael Swindell, Senior Product Manager for Borland's Linux development, speaks candidly about his company's Linux plans.

By Dwight Johnson, Linux Today

Michael Swindell, Senior Product Manager of the Borland division of Inprise Corporation, had his hands full at the recently concluded LinuxWorld Conference and Expo. This was the first LinuxWorld Expo for Inprise and they had just announced the major release of their VisiBroker middleware product for Linux.

Of course, the buzz was all about the recently concluded Borland Developer Survey and what additional products Borland would port, expecially the prospects for seeing their famous RAD platform Delphi on Linux.

Michael graciously sat down with Linux Today to talk about the products for Linux Borland is doing now and is likely to work on in the future.

Is this your first Linux show?

Michael: We've attended as attendees before but this is our first time to exhibit.

I haven't had the opportunity to see your booth. Did you mount a big one?

Michael: No, it's fairly conservative. It's a 10'x20' booth and we're showing several products. We're showing Interbase for Linux, we're showing JBuilder for Linux, and we're announcing today VisiBroker for Linux.

So VisiBroker is even out of Beta and into release?

Michael: It is released. And we'll have a full trial version download on the Web site very soon.

This is a product I've never heard of. Is it a product for developers?

Michael: It's middleware; it's for building distributed applications. It's a CORBA ORB. It's pretty much the industry leading CORBA ORB. We've got about 40 million installations of VisiBroker.

It's been available on UNIX for some time?

Michael: Correct.

It was probably an easy port for you.

Michael: It was a straightforward port for us. We're at Version 3 of VisiBroker and we're coming out with the Version 4. Version 4 is currently in Beta.

Will it be released simultaneously for the other platforms and Linux or will there be a delay?

Michael: From here out, they'll be released simultaneously.

Would you mind reviewing what you do for Inprise/Borland?

Michael: Senior Product Manager. And I represent the basic Linux development tools.

What do you want to tell me the most? What's the most exciting thing?

Michael: There are really two exciting things today. First is that we've released our industry leading middleware VisiBroker for the Linux platform. This is huge. The other thing that we've done today is we've released the survey results from our developers' survey.

What can we conclude from the survey?

Michael: The main thing that we can conclude (which was surprising to us) is that we're seeing Linux turn a corner and we're starting to see application development.

It's one of the things that we were looking for in the survey: are developers ready to do mainstream application development.

The survey is very clear -- that's what developers are really looking for now.

In the six to seven year history of Linux development, most of the development has been in the area of infrastructure -- in building the system, kernel building, desktop building, building the pieces of the Linux infrastructure. And the tools have been actually very appropriate for that type of development.

It appears now that the platform is ready for application development which will really demand a different type of tool to really drive a lot of mainstream development -- things like Delphi and C++ Builder which make doing technologies like developing with data bases and with Internet user interfaces very easy to do.

Has Borland had these tools working on UNIX platforms prior to this? Or was it all on Microsoft?

Michael: We've had our middleware and our data base technologies on UNIX, Java and Windows. Our tools have been primarily on the Windows platform.

That's going to be a more difficult port then.

Michael: That's going to take us longer to port those products to the Linux platform.

Are you well along with those ports now?

Michael: We've started. The survey certainly helps guide us and gives us a lot of information.

Are you at least in Alpha?

Michael: You mean like a Delphi or a C++ Builder? No.

We're not announcing any of the tools right now but what we have in progress is the infrastructure of the tools. We've just completed porting the back end compiler that's shared by Delphi and C++ Builder to Linux. Now we can take the front end, the C++ front end, for example, and put that with the back end compiler and then we can compile things like Mozilla or basically any Linux application that's a C++ application with that. That's one of the pieces of the core infrastructure of Delphi and C++ Builder.

Then you've also got the IDE, the application framework, the libraries. The first step we've taken is getting the compiler there. And that's something that we've recently completed.

Do you have a timeline you're working on, a projection when you're going to have these products in release?

Michael: Right now what we're doing is determining what it is that we're going to build.

Something like a compiler, for example. No matter what type of tool we build or have to port, we have to bring those there. Right now what we're working on is bringing the core technologies that no matter what we build are going to have to get there.

And the market research that we're doing and the surveys and customer research is going to tell us what to build. Until we know exactly what it is that we're going to build, we don't have a timeline.

You said that the survey indicated that you should be building Delphi and C++ Builder.

Michael: Right.

Anything else?

Michael: Some of the things that it's told us is that developers are looking for rapid application development, that they're looking for graphical development. Close to 90% of developers said they require graphical user interface development. That's pretty significant for our type of development tool.

The other result from the survey that is significant is that over 90% of the developers in the survey require data base connectivity, which actually was surprising to us.

That really tells us that developers are ready to move into mainstream application development. That's end-user applications, that's business applications. That's a very good indicator of the type of development that developers are interested in developing on Linux.

Server side development is the strength of Linux. Linux has been very strong as a Web server and E-mail server. The survey is telling us customers want to start building Web applications -- server side applications.

Do you have tools out there now that do that on the Windows side?

Michael: Yes, Delphi. Delphi, C++ Builder and JBuilder for Java are all tools that develop both client side and server side applications.

Delphi 5, for example, which is just being released now, has XML and DHTML capabilities, so you can build server side applications that are completely browser based.

Are you familiar with an application called Enhydra by Lutris Technologies?

Michael: Actually yes.

It's a Java based, browser based application server -- open-source. Would you be in that same application area when you're talking about XML and serving off data bases?

Michael: I'd need to know more about Enhydra in order to compare us to them, but that's the type of application development we're talking about.

Are you planning to port that?

Michael: It's something we're assessing right now. The application server is built on top of VisiBroker. VisiBroker is the infrastructure for our application server. Getting VisiBroker there gets us very far along in getting the application server there.

It sounds like there is a large range of products that could potentially be ported.

Michael: Most of our products are ported now. Our imbedded data base technology Interbase was the first SQL data base server for the Linux platform. That's been shipping now for one year. We actually launched that in May of 1998.

With VisiBroker, we've brought our middleware technology over to Linux. And we have announced that JBuilder, which is our pure Java development tool, will be available for Linux following our Solaris release, so the projected timeframe on that should be around Q1. It's largely dependent on the Java infrastructure on Linux.

What's the status on that?

Michael: It's coming along. That's why we're saying Q1. There are some Java One products out. The Java one infrastructure is there but the Java Two platform needs to get there because JBuilder is a Java Two development tool. That will be our first development tool that gets to the Linux platform. Then Delphi and C++ Builder we're assessing right now. We are basically investigating what needs to be there, what must be the characteristics of those products.

What do you believe is the market potential on Linux?

Michael: The market potential is wide open right now. Linux is now turning the corner into becoming a mainstream platform.

How long do you think it will take it to turn?

Michael: Over the next year. Part of that will depend on companies like Inprise to deliver application development tools. Applications largely drive the mainstream status of an operating system. Once there are applications, then more people will be attracted to the platform; then it will solve a lot more business needs.

It's incumbent on companies like ourselves to deliver the tools for people to develop those applications, to get the platform to mainstream status. It's important that we're recognized and that Linux is making that turn, that we support the platform, and that we make a commitment to the platform.

You're going to have competitors in the application development tools area. What is going to distinguish the Borland products?

Michael: What's always separated Borland development tools, from other development tools.

Most development tools take things like compilers and debuggers and editors and wrap them up into a toolbox or IDE. What Borland is good at is taking that a step further and making application development much easier, applying Rapid Application Development (RAD) techniques to all types of development, making graphical development, user-interface development, tremendously easier. Delphi is a hallmark in that area.

And then making data base development tremendously easier in application development.

In our Windows products, we've made Internet enablement very simple. Now we're making XML, DHTML development and server side development very easy. We also have made distributed object development very simple.

It's going beyond just writing code, which is traditionally what's done in building the infrastructure, building kernels, and taking complex technologies like data base user interface and distributed object computing and making those technologies very simple in application development. That's what we see would be our advantage, why people would want to use our tools.

Do you see this as a way to make an end run around Microsoft by getting on to a neutral playing field, or is your Microsoft side business doing just fine and this is just another market area and an opportunity that's opening up?

Michael: It's definitely not a way of end running Microsoft. Our Windows tools are very successful and we're very happy with them and we're committed to the Windows platform.

Linux really changes the landscape and we need to support the Linux platform and make our tools right for the Linux platform.

How does Linux change the landscape?

Michael: The nature of the way Linux is being developed and distributed. Nothing's been done like that before.

You mean open-source?

Michael: Of course.

Are you going to open-source anything?

Michael: We recognize that we have to support developers building open-source applications. A Delphi that's for building proprietary applications is not going to be appropriate for the Linux market. So our first step is making sure that anything that we develop, in the tool space, will allow developers to build non-proprietary applications. Beyond that, open-sourcing our own technology is something that we're certainly looking at.

Coming from a commercial perspective, a long history of commercial development, and proprietary development and moving into an open-source space, we have to approach it cautiously and make sure that we do this in a way that we can:

1. help the open-source community; there's no point in doing open-source things that don't help the open-source movement, and

2. will help us grow our user base and make money.

We're definitely open to it, but we're not making any announcements right now that we're going to open-source this technology or that technology.

Have you given any thought to doing your own Linux distribution like Corel is doing?

Michael: Our core competencies are in development tools and middleware and data bases. We're going to continue to build on our core competencies right now.

Corel's core competencies are in application software, for example, word processors -- in fact, they own some of the products that Borland once sold.

Michael: Correct. Exactly.

But in order to support the applications that they're committed to, they felt it would be to their advantage to actually do their own distribution. It would be a little more friendly to the customer base that they're trying to reach.

Michael: Right.

But you have no thoughts...?

Michael: It sounds like a good product that they're trying to build. But we're going to focus on tools and middleware.

Are you going to support all the distros out there?

Michael: Absolutely. So if Corel Linux becomes a huge success, then we need to support Corel.

Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to Linux Today.

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