Borland

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A software company originally founded in Denmark in 1979 by Niels Jensen as Midas ApS, changed its name to Borland in 1982 and moved its headquarters to the UK and later to the USA although their main development office remained in Denmark for most of the 80s. While initially a developer of add-on packages for word processors and small utilities they found great commercial success by licensing development tools from third parties that their Danish office then added an IDE and utilities to and then sold at budget prices under the Turbo brand, these included Turbo Pascal, Turbo Prolog and Turbo Basic. Notably only one of their classic products was an in-house development in the form of Borland Sidekick.

By the mid/late 80s the company was the biggest seller of development tools for PCs by both value and volume, having managed to overtake Microsoft, Digital Research and IBM in that market sector. However when Philippe Kahn was made CEO he oversaw a thinning of catalogue of the developers tools and went on an acquisition spree where Borland took over a large number of application software developers with the stated aim of overtaking Microsoft as the largest developer of business and application software in the world.

In 2009 the company was acquired by Micro Focus.

Products

History

Borland was a software company originally founded in Denmark in 1979 by Niels Jensen as Midas ApS and initially specialised in creating add-on products for the WordStar word processor, later branching into the making of sundry microcomputer software products.

A shell company was incorporated in the UK in 1981 as Borland Ltd. taking advantage of the exceptionally relaxed tax laws the country has when it comes to taxing foreigners and foreign entities. Even though Borland is a family name with origins in central Europe it has no relation to any of the founders of the company, it simply came as the name of a so-called "off the shelf company" that had already been registered with the name and as no one had registered it as a trademark, the Danish owners decided they liked it, and kept it as a brand name for their products.

Although Borland had started to sell versions of their software translated into English from their California, USA office as early as 1982, the company did not became well known until 1983 when it started marketing Poly Pascal that they licensed from the Poly Data company in Denmark, alongside an in-house developed editor and rudimentary IDE under the name Turbo Pascal. It was at the time considered revolutionary as a Pascal compiler for CP/M and later DOS due to speed (it was a single pass compiler) and price that was only US$ 49 at a time when most of their competitors in the Pascal marketplace were 300 to 1000 US$. A year later Philippe Kahn is hired to lead the marketing of the product in the USA. Later in 1984 the company shipped what became their best selling and most profitable product in the form of Borland Sidekick, one of the few of their early english language products that was actually developed fully in-house in Denmark.

In 1985 the headquarters of the company are moved to London, England, although for tax purposes a shell company is based in Ireland that is known as "Borland International", a development team based in the London HQ takes over the design of future development products. The same year Borland took over the USA based company Analytica in order to get their hands on the Reflex flat file database, this bought with it a development team that included Brad Silverberg who later went on to become Borland's VP of engineering and Analytica founder and main developer Adam Bosworth, this became the first USA based development team that Borland had.

While Reflex was indeed one of the best flat file databases out there, sold reasonably well and got great reviews, it was facing a much tougher competition than the rest of their product line. Sidekick and Turbo Pascal had more or less defined their own market niches and came to dominate them while Reflex became a perpetual also-ran in a market full of contenders ranging from budget options in the shape of Buttonware's PC-File to in-memory databases like Q&A that offered much greater speeds than Reflex could muster.

The company was turned into a public concern in 1986 when its stocks were listed on the London "Unlisted Securities Market" (part of LSE, similar to AIM) and were heavily oversubscribed. In 1987 the company released its first word processor in the form of Borland Sprint, like most other Borland products it was based on a bought in codebase, this time in the form of the "FinalWord" text editor bought from music software company "Mark of the Unicorn" (MOTU) that wanted out of the PC development business, but further development of the program was in the hands of Borland's French division.

Splitup

Niels Jensen left Borland in 1987 to found Jensen and Partners International (JPI) after disagreements with other board members in relation to the decision to buy in the Wizard C compiler to sell as Turbo-C, but the Wizard C as a product was of a somewhat indifferent quality and Jensen objected to buying in a product from a third party at a time when an in-house compiler with multiple front ends, including C and C++ was close to being finished. And while re-branded Wizard C/Turbo C sold extremely well on the strength of the "Turbo" brand, the initial 1.x release of it did indeed prove to be an extremely troublesome beast, but it took an almost complete re-write for version 2 for it to be competitive with other budget C compilers on the market and the interim 1.5 release that contained libraries that were so buggy that a number of professional developers abandoned the system altogether.

When Jensen left he took with him the second generation compiler and released it under the TopSpeed brand in versions for Pascal, Modula-2, C and C++. The Ada front-end developed by Borland and finished off by JPI was never released by the latter company as by the time it had been finished to a validatable standard, the USA Department of Defence had decided to sponsor a freeware versions of an Ada compiler that eventually became GNAT, and JPI decided that there was not a market for a commercial offering in competition to a free one.

After Jensen left the company its headquarters were effectively moved to the USA although technically the company was still Irish due to tax reasons. The company was by then headed by Philippe Kahn who went on a spending spree buying database developer Ansa Software in September 1987.

Development product purge

In 1989 the company announced that that it would focus on the development of new object-oriented technologies developed in-house in the USA, close down all development work in Denmark and France, and cease the sales and development of all of their existing programming tools except those based on C, Pascal and assembler and a few more generic tools like debuggers, text editors and databases. This took industry insiders by surprise because some of the other programming tools from the company had sold extremely well and in some cases considerably better than some of the products that the company intended to continue selling, in particular versions one of Turbo Prolog and Turbo Basic had been very well received in the marketplace, with the former selling bucketloads and the latter being a favourite of American magazine reviewers.

But there were already signs of this a year earlier, despite version one of Turbo Prolog having been a best seller for the company and the healthy sales leading Borland to develop and sell a host of add on products for the package, when it came to the release of version two of the company inexplicitly did no promotion of the package with the exception of a few magazine adverts, a stark contrast to two years earlier when Philippe Kahn himself had orchestrated a media frenzy around the release of the original version and odd next to the promotion Turbo Basic and Turbo C got at the same time.

But the reason appears to have been Borland internal politics, although large portions of the TP package such as the IDE were in house developments, the Turbo Prolog compiler itself was developed by Danish company Prolog Development Center and the sudden lack of interest in promoting version two of the software appears to be part of the power struggle Kahn had with the original Danish owners of the company that had somewhat diluted ownership after Borland had been taken public in 1986. PDC appears to have been perceived as being too close to the original Borland team and may have suffered for that reason. To limit the sales of one's own product to spite some of the board members may seem like cutting off the nose to spite the face, but corporate politics are like all other politics, not necessarily done with the stakeholders best long time interests in mind.

The animosity towards the Danish sourced products was especially odd since all of the main revenue generating products from the company in the form of Turbo Pascal, Sidekick and Turbo Prolog all came from the Danish side of the company either as in-house developments like Sidekick or licensed software like Turbo Pascal, while with the exception of Turbo C, all the products Borland was developing in the USA and France either lost the company money or were indifferent profit generators.

It was also legally a slightly risky step for the company, while initially Borland attempted to play hardball with both PDC and Turbo Basic compiler author Bob Zale. It was pointed out that both companies had adapted their compilers tightly to the Turbo coding and debugging environments and without them neither entity effectively had any saleable product which could lead to legal problems from them. So in the end Borland was forced to license the Turbo development environments to their former partners at very favourable rates in return for releasing the company of their contractual obligations.

The company held two further IPOs in the USA in 1989 and 1990. In 1991 Borland took over Ashton-Tate, this was in order to get their hands on the dBase product line and all other Ashton-Tate products were cancelled soon after the takeover.

After being ousted from the company Philippe Kahn licensed the code for Borland Sidekick and sold Windows versions of it through his "Starfish" company.