CodeGear CEO eyes Ruby

New executive discusses Borland tools subsidiary

Formed late last year, CodeGear currently is the developer tools arm of Borland Software but will become a separate company. Early last month, CodeGear announced the appointment of Jim Douglas as CEO. Douglas most recently was president and CEO of ReShape, an electronic design automation startup company. He also has worked at Tality, a spinoff of Cadence Design Systems.

InfoWorld Editor at Large Paul Krill spoke with Douglas last week about CodeGear and its mission.

InfoWorld: What are your goals as the CEO for CodeGear?

Douglas: One is we’ve got a long legacy of offering quality products more in the compiled code area. So my goals are to continue to expand that business but also really grow the business in some of the emerging areas around managed code and dynamic code. I think that there's going to be a lot of market opportunity there and we've got a great opportunity to compliment where we’ve been in the past with some of the emerging opportunities.

InfoWorld: What opportunities are you seeing with managed code and could you give your definition?

Douglas: I think from a language standpoint, languages like Java and ASP.Net with C# and VB [Visual Basic] falling under that, I would put in the managed code area. [Also, in the dynamic programming area, we are] looking at things like Ruby on Rails and PHP [Hypertext Preprocessor]. Where do I see opportunity? Distinctly different between the two spaces, I think in the managed code area you’ve got a dynamic going on in and around the Java world where a good analogy would be deregulation like you saw in the telcos years ago where you’ve got a green field for a lot of new suppliers coming into the market and offering a lot of new technology and adding a layer of complexity and confusing the market. And I think that's what's occurring in the Java world. The great news is there are a lot of nice new technologies. For example, [there are] a lot of nice light new Java frameworks available. The bad news is it really upped the level of complexity for developers. So I think we've got a lot of opportunity creating solutions that are going to now enable people really to leverage this plethora of new technologies, but leverage it in a productive sense. I think that's certainly one aspect of focus for the company. And then, more in the dynamic sense, I think you’ve got important trends like Ruby and specifically Ruby on Rails emerging where folks not only in the Java camp but outside the Java camp, really look at it as a potential growth area to really stem a lot of that complexity. We're looking at Ruby on Rails as the potential next great application development environment for enterprise applications.

InfoWorld: Are you planning any new offerings for dynamic scripting languages?

Douglas: We are. [With] PHP we just announced at the end of the year what we think is a pretty unique offering. PHP is extremely pervasive for Web development, and what we brought to market was a different approach. In PHP we offered for the first time a full RAD environment so people could use visualization for PHP and also the concepts of a virtual component library. You could really start to get reusability and code maintenance in PHP development, make it a lot easier to do more rich Web application development. We already have a product in that space and we’ll continue to evolve that. You will see something in the Ruby on Rails space from us shortly and we will be at the Rails conference on May 17 [in Portland] demonstrating a new technology.

InfoWorld: CodeGear was broken out of Borland. Attempts were made to sell off the unit but nobody bought it.  Doesn’t that put a negative taint on the? How do you recover from that sort of blow to the image?

Douglas: I certainly can address that firsthand because I made the decision to come into the company with full knowledge of what transpired there. They certainly did go through a process, They did have dollars at the table. The transaction didn’t occur. That's all factual. From my vantage point, there was a lot of work to do to cleanly separate the companies and operationally prepare CodeGear to be successful long term. And my view of the world was that operationally it made full sense for Borland and CodeGear to be managed and run separately. If you look at Borland's business, it's what I would characterize as a high-touch, low-volume business. The nature of the ALM [application lifecycle] business is a really value-based consultative-type of sale. You look at CodeGear, it's what I call a low-touch, high-volume business. Most of the product goes through channels. It's a lot lower cost. So there are a lot of things that operationally are very different. The way I viewed it is there's an opportunity in the near term to focus on building operational excellence given that type of business and that's going to position the company longer term for success. We still plan on going down the path of separating the companies. There's not a definitive timeline on it. We're still wholly owned by Borland. The plan is of record to be a separate company completely.

InfoWorld: After I wrote an item about your coming aboard a few weeks ago, somebody commented 'It looks like CodeGear is being repackaged for sale.'  This person said, 'Jim has sold a number of companies to venture capitalists who have picked over the corpses for IP that can be resold.  Good-bye CodeGear.'  How would you respond to that?

Douglas: Well, I got a chuckle out it, number one, when I read that. That's not a true statement at all.  That's not been in my history. I had certainly been on the buying side of a lot of companies in my days with a company called Cadence, where acquisition was a big part of our story. On the selling side, I only had one operation in my career that we sold and that was a venture-backed company. So factually it's not true. The thing that drew me here is it's a great opportunity to build an extremely interesting company over time that really can leverage the incredible roots that are behind not only the company, but the development community that was grown. But then looking forward, as I mentioned earlier, and really taking advantage of some of the things that are changing in the ecosystem around software design. So I got a good chuckle out of it. 

InfoWorld: What about the IDE space, in which Borland was a pretty large player. Do you see that as just a commodity now and there's really no IDE market anymore? 

Douglas: I think it's changed radically. If you looked at IDEs 10 years ago, this conversation was going on as well, and the driver was, have debuggers and basically editors been commoditized and so is that market dead? And what happened is the market evolved and Borland evolved with it and it started offering things like [a] rapid application development environment on top of [a] traditional IDE. And the same thing is occurring right now. I think given what’s going on around us, like the advent of open source, like the advent of the chaos that’s going around in the Java domain, [there are] great opportunities for companies to help people basically take advantage of technology in a productive way. We’re going to continue to move up the value chain, if you will. We still will continue to sell rich integrative development environments as kind of the core desktop, if you will. But the key is, how do we deliver incremental technology and a solution to people through that medium?  That’s really where I think the growth opportunity is.

InfoWorld: Are you familiar with Microsoft's Silverlight multimedia browser plug-in and Expression technologies? Are these something you might either complement or compete with?

Douglas: I'm not yet familiar with those.

InfoWorld: Is CodeGear planning any offerings as far as graphical application development and multimedia application development and what do you already have now in those spaces?

Douglas: Just a quick comment. The Expression side, I am familiar with, although I wasn't familiar with Silverlight per se. [There is] the whole notion of Flash Lite capability in the development. Right now we don’t have definitive plans of using those approaches. We're certainly looking at it, figuring out where the market's going and as appropriate, we’ll look to either partner or innovate in that area.

InfoWorld: Can you comment on anything as far as open source that CodeGear will be looking to do in the near future?

Douglas: We’re actually already doing a lot in with open source. If you look at our JBuilder product, not only is it built on top of Eclipse, but we went back to the drawing board and we created a complete open source development environment that we used internally to develop the product. One of the things that we had noticed along the way is there was a lot of holes in terms of how you construct a development environment and that led to a lot of the innovation in terms of design tools that are present within our JBuilder tool. When we ship JBuilder today on top of Eclipse, not only do we ship Eclipse with it, but we also ship a number of open source applications like source code control, like bug-tracking tools, etc, with the code itself. We've developed a number of partnerships that enable us to actually provide this with our tools. We continue to build partnerships with open source partners to really build a rich ecosystem of open source solutions around JBuilder. And this is something you’ll see a lot more from us in the future.

InfoWorld: Are you doing anything more as far as being a member of Eclipse?  And is CodeGear officially an Eclipse member or are you still using Borland's membership in Eclipse?

Douglas: We're a member under Borland.  We're a very active member.

InfoWorld: Do you expect to be a separate member aside from Borland?

Douglas: Personally I haven't looked at it in detail, but I would expect that at some point, yes.

InfoWorld: Are there any projects that you’re planning to propose at Eclipse?

Douglas: We're working with a couple of the groups right now and we plan on doing that in the future.  One of the things that’s also interesting for us is just trying to figure out strategically what of our technology we might open-source as well. And the PHP realm and the Ruby realm is a great example. Those offerings are built on a lot of open source code and we’re trying to evaluate what technologies that we could push into the market, open source that would help those ecosystems grow faster. One of the examples within the Eclipse world is Mylar, providing task management for Eclipse.

InfoWorld: And what are you looking to do there?

Douglas: We actually are contributing both technology and knowledge in terms of how to develop out capabilities that could be available for Eclipse.

InfoWorld: Are you planning anything for JavaOne?

Douglas: We've got a number of things going on. One is we’ve got a couple announcements that will go on there.  We’ve got an announcement [about] our JBuilder product, we’re doing a second version of that. We're going to talk about some capabilities. And then, as we talked about, on the 14th we’ve got some other announcements on the heels of that.

InfoWorld: Are there any other topics of note that you wanted to bring up?

Douglas: The key thing for us is we have been on a blitz on two fronts. One, [is] in terms of product development, as you’ve already covered and we appreciate. [We have] our Delphi 2007 offering, our JBuilder offering and our PHP offering at the end of the year. We’ve got a next JBuilder offering [upcoming], a new C++ Builder offering, and then as we alluded to, you’ll see something from us in the Ruby space. So that’s clearly been one of our efforts. And then obviously, as we build CodeGear, it’s very important that we get out and start to build brand equity. We’ve also been doing an incredible amount of work in terms of reaching out [to] our customer base and new potential customers through seminars. We did about 60 in Q1 alone and that kind of culminated with an event called CodeRage that we held [four weeks ago], which was a three-day virtual developer conference that attracted about 2,500 folks from around the world. And we had 50 speakers over those three days and it was an extremely well received event.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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