Monday, November 27, 2006

Cough... cough...

Groundwork

Now that the dust is beginning to settle and some of the initial euphoric/shocking/stunned reactions are beginning to subside regarding the CodeGear announcement, I figured I'd weigh in with my perspective.  I specifically wanted to hold off till this point mainly because I wanted some time to fully digest and evaluate what this all means and how I think it will play out in the coming months.  To be fair, it is all still sinking in and there are still fair number of questions we have yet to answer.  Being as close to this whole process as I've been has given me a decidedly unique perspective.  First of all, being a technical kinda guy all my life with little to no desire to ever delve into “business” allowed me to take a kind of “layman” approach.  Now of course I'd also like to think that I'm no spring chicken and still possess a keen ability to analyze and verify a lot of the information I've been able to see.

If you've ever dealt with folks in the finance/business world, they have their own language and speak at a level of abstraction that tends to baffle most folks.  Wait... that sounds oddly familiar, doesn't it?  Isn't that exactly how everyone tends to describe us, in the high-tech world?  We have URLs, ASTs, QuickSorts, etc...  They have EBITDA, Rev-Rec and Cost-Models.  So?  The point I'm trying to make here is that many in the high-tech world tend to eschew all things business.  While this is clearly an oversimplification and probably too broad of a statement, I'm only trying to highlight that the reverse is not necessarily true.  The business side understands that there is value and a market for the high-tech side.  It's their job to recognize and figure out how to monetize and capitalize on those things.

Another aspect of the business side of things is that often maligned and thought of as only “for those other guys,” is marketing.  I guess one of the reasons for that is that marketing is actually about psychology.  I'm not saying that they aren't out there, but I don't know any programmers, software engineers, etc... that also have psychology degrees.  Human factors is close to what I'd consider human psychology mixed with technology.  Psychology is in many ways more of a meta-science than, say, physics, mathematics or biology.  This is probably one reason that marketing has really been misunderstood.  We all know when marketing is trying too hard, is just plain bad and misses its mark.  However when marketing is successful... the target audience doesn't actually feel like they've been marketed too.  The message is clear, resonates, and makes sense.  This is how CodeGear needs to handle marketing.

My Take

As I started this post, I wanted to make it clear that there is a lot of machinery behind this endeavor.  It is also not a “started in the garage” kind of venture.  So the first item is the CodeGear announcement itself and what it means.  During the months following the February 8th announcement of Borland's intention to divest itself of the Developer Tools Group (DTG), a huge internal effort began.  This all started with creating a credible and achievable plan for the next 3 years.  These plans not only included the existing products, but also plans for growing the business and moving into other developer focused markets.  Probably one of the hardest part was to determine what parts would go with the DTG, which parts are licensed from Borland, and how to handle the overall transition.  There were the obvious items, Delphi, JBuilder, C++Builder, InterBase, etc...  But there were also some technologies that had been spread across all the Borland product lines.  An example of this is the licensing.  I've read a bit about how some folks were nervous that they wouldn't be able to activate their legacy products.  I assure you that this was an item discussed all the way to the top.  It was imperitive that we, CodeGear and Borland, not allow that to happen.

With all the late evenings and long weekends we came down to the CodeGear announcement that Borland intends to make DTG a wholly owned subsidiary called CodeGear.  My first thought was... “hmmm... OK... that's interesting.”  I remember meeting with many potential investors and going through all the long presentation sessions.  I did many follow-up diligence sessions.  I discussed the customers, the products, the roadmaps, the teams, the history, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I must say that nearly all of the folks I met were cordial, engaged, interested and above all, shrewd and analytical.  So after all of that,  it did seem somewhat anti-climatic.  We had been diligently preparing for one specific outcome and something slightly different happened.  I remember early on in the beginning personally resolving to approach this whole process with an open and non-judgemental attitude.  Whatever the outcome, I was going to, as much as I'm able, do whatever it takes to make this a success.  It isn't every day that one gets to participate in the genesis of a new company, in whatever form.

So were the last 9 months a waste?  Absolutely NOT!  As a matter of fact, we're in far better of a position to be successful and run this business.  We have spent the last months shining a bright light on every deep, dark corner of the business.  We've questioned everything.  Quite frankly, we had to relearn this business in the operational sense, and I'm sure this is no real secret, it's been left to it's own for a very long time.  We also have to take into account market shifts and other dynamics.  The great thing is that we no longer have to sit on the sidelines and watch all the action.  Now we have the chance to get in on it.  What is that action?  Things like web development, dynamic/scripting languages, continuned traction in the Win32/Win64 native markets.  Let's not forget the whole .NET side of things as well.  There is the quickly maturing open source movement and a whole ecosystem surrounding Java and Eclipse.  We still have a lot to offer those markets in terms of experience, wisdom, and insights.  This isn't just a whole lot of “been there, done that,” but a chance to actively apply a huge amount of what we've learned over the years regarding what developers need and what.  This is a chance to help shepard in these new technological advances by making them more accessible to the average developer.  Over the coming months/years, I'm certain that the shape of our offerings in those spaces will be very different than they do today.

Balance

This is a hard lesson... for anybody.  Part of why I put this in here is that this is one thing I know developers struggle with.  While CodeGear is clearly focused on the developer, we also know that you can't be all things to everybody.  So in many ways, CodeGear will have to find the right “balance” as it comes out of the gate.  There is a time for whipping out the shotgun and blasting away at a market and hope that something will hit.  There are also plenty more times where the sniper rifle is far more effective.  So the balance comes from when you use which approach.  So, you will probably see some use of the shotgun and a good amount of the sniper rifle as well.

So while the landscape is not exactly how we originally envisioned it, it is very, very close.  CodeGear will be allowed to operate in near total autonomy.  We'll have control over what products we produce and when we release those products.  We also control how we approach new emerging markets/technologies.  We'll have control over our own expenses.  If something costs too much, we either do it differently or decided to not do it at all.  Pretty simple.  We get to decide where to re-invest the profits.  We get to decide with whom we'll form partnerships.

Many of you may remain unconvinced, and that's OK.  I have no delusions to think that we're going to make everyone happy.  A lot of mere talk isn't going to convince some people.  I know that.  So all I ask is that you watch carefully, be patient.  Things are going to begin to happen in the coming weeks.  This will be especially true for next quarter when we get all the nitty-gritty details of the CodeGear business arrangements settled and announced.  The great thing is that I've got more irons in the fire now than I've ever had while at Borland.  We're also at a point where it isn't a question of what direction to go and what to do because we know that it must fit with focusing on the developer.  We're certainly not at a loss for ideas and direction, it is just now up to deciding what to do first and when.  Much of that has already been decided as you'll see in the upcoming weeks/months.  For my part, I'll keep rambling on...  And please excuse the dust as we remodel.