Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Aftermath...Revenue...Culture...Kool-Aid...Red-Pills...What's in a name?

The past two days were filled with marathon meetings.  Not just any meeting but, as I mentioned in this post, it was the first of many DevCo operations meetings where we got all the leading players together from all the regions where we operate (Americas, EMEA, APAC), to sort out everything from our Q3 revenue plans, to figuring out transition priorities, to figuring out what direction we want to drive the new company's culture.  Can't talk about the first item, the second is plain boring (what financial system are we going to use for invoicing, inventory tracking, etc...), but the third item was actually interesting.  While it wasn't about products, and not specifically about operations, it was about our most valuable assets, the customers and the employees.  We broke up into several smaller groups and had to write down as many words, phrases, concepts, etc... that we felt described an effective corporate culture.  It was great to see that without exception, everyone held to a common theme.  Everyone was committed and passionate about what kind of culture we want to have.

Now of course, you cannot dictate or form policy for a culture, but you can influence it.  There was a lot of talk about reviving some of the old Borland cultural mojo.  This is because the vast majority of those on the extended leadership team have been with Borland for a long time and remember "the old days."  We also were not a bunch of old geezers pining for the "glory days," but recognized that while there was a lot of good things about the old Borland culture, times have changed and a lot of what worked great back then don't work now.  So we're looking to look to the past culture as a foundation on which we'll be building a brand new and unique "DevCo culture."  From my point of view, and I know that Nick is on board with this, part of what should be part of this new endeavor (and will be if I have anything to do with it) is that everyone here needs to climb on board the Cluetrain, drink the Kool-Aid, and take the red-pill.

On another note, we've been getting lots and lots of DevCo company name submissions from the email addresses that Michael Swindell setup.  During our Ops meetings we had a chance to go through a lot of the submissions from the customers and employees.  There were a lot of... ummm let's just say "interesting" names.  Some of the names were down right hilarious.  Others just didn't translate too well to all languages and cultures.  Still more were just real "head scratchers."  There were a lot of submissions that were very similar or even identical. Some even identical to some names suggested internally.

The activity of the name submissions is another example of one of the major themes we constantly highlight.  Our customer community is vibrant, passionate, motivated, highly vocal and very active.  Talk about an asset!  As we discussed this business with "some people," that was something that was very apparent.  These folks took special note of this.  While you cannot easily put any kind of price tag on that (it is a nearly priceless asset, in my mind), it factor into the value of all the related bits you can quantify.

For now, we're all on the edge of our seats waiting for any kind of news and information regarding the spin-off.  I get questions from the team almost daily whether or not I've heard anything and what's going on.  I imagine that we are all feeling a little like the NASA engineers/managers during the Apollo missions in the 1960's and '70's when the first time they orbited the moon. As the module passed to the dark side of the moon all the communication stopped.  Folks were just listening to radio for any signal.  When it finally comes, we can all breathe a huge sign of relief.  So right now, the spin-off module is on the dark side of the moon...


  1. Did anyone catch this pronouncement? Heard it this evening at a .Net user group:\

    Java EE Marked for Death?

  2. Impatient Delphi LoyalistJuly 12, 2006 at 3:46 PM

    It has now been 5 months since the Delphi/C++ developer community has been informed of Borland's plan to divest the developer tools. Each passing day, a Delphi developer, shop or company is moving over to VS. Take a look at the Job boards and you will see at least 1 job posting of a wanted ad for VS C# with background knowledge in Delphi. They are not wanting to use both technologies. They are wanting to migrate. What is left of the Delphi community is slowing moving over to VS. That is the reality of it no matter how Delphi loyalists will react. I wish DevCo could move forward faster. Set up the company quicker, move forward and get to work on releasing innovative products as a stand alone company.

  3. A return to the days of yore when the quality of the product came before questions about ROI and profit margins would be welcome. This is not to say the questions should not be asked, but when they become the primary driving force behind software, the quality of the software drops like a rock.

    So ya, this is one case where a step back would definitely be a step forward.

    It is part of why I am not sad to see the name "Borland" disappear from the Devtools group - too much history, it is time to get some distance and start fresh.

    I will say that the Impatient Delphi Loyalist has a point, the migration away has already started. Devco is going to have to earn back each and every developer the hard way.

  4. "highly vocal". There's an understatement. :)

    Clue train and red pill are great catch phrases. They imply making a conscious decision.

    I'd avoid using Kool-Aid much, though. It makes me think of walking blindly into something without knowing why or the consequences, and this is definitely not my thinking on DevCo.

  5. > So right now, the spin-off module is on

    > the dark side of the moon...

    Really ?

    *ON* the dark side of the moon ?

    I've heard some rumours that the new DevCo

    is leaving Scotts Valley, but I didn't know

    that they were moving that far.


  6. As the Quakers say, these Friends speak my mind.

    In addition, I would like to thank you for linking to both Clue Train and Red Pill. I hadn't seen those before and all I could say is "Oh My" for most of the 95 manifesto items. I ran my own business for 20 years, and wish I had followed those. I would still be in business.

    Don't be too fast to take all of the "old things." Some decisions were not the best for the company (can you say dBase?).

    And, to "earn back" (thank you C Johnson) the old customers you will have to make the pricing much more realistic (See the new developer's SDK from Adobe for Flash) and be much more up front about problems that crop up in new releases.

    Personally, I already believe you're not being open enough (I know, I've complained about this already - so shut up, Phil). Follow the Manifesto.

  7. For the most part I agree with the previous posters. However, I'd like to add some observations my own regarding some of the analogies used.

    The dark side of the Moon- As the module enters the dark side of the moon, there is a very specific time window in which observers expect it to emerge from the other side. The longer the module "DevCo" stays on the dark side, the more people will think that its mission ended on the dark side and didn't make it. They themselves will go over to the dark side, I mean Visual Studio.

    The red pill- when Neo was offered the choice, it wasn't that he could take the red pill provided he paid $3000, or take the blue pill. A previous poster already alluded to the price of Delphi products. I think in order for DevCo to compete, its going to have to try something really radically new. In a nutshell here's my suggestion... It's almost impossible to adequately a value wait a product as complex as the Borland developers studio in 30 days. Any programmer worth their salt will inevitably have some sort of project that eats away their time before they can actually evaluate the product in any shape or form. I would suggest allowing anyone to download the architect version for free. (Perhaps with the caveat that they can't use it to develop a commercial product.) Once they have downloaded it and installed it on their machine they may or may not get bug fixes, but they would definitely have to buy software assurance to get any upgrades. Software assurance should be about 20% of what the full price would be per year. An additional serendipity may be that a user can get credit for recommending that another user try DevCo products and gets the credit when I knew user pays for software assurance. Granted it might not convert Visual Studio users in droves, but it might get some of them to start using it at home and then encourage their workplace to adopt it if it makes them that much more productive. They definitely aren't going to try it if they have to pay $3000 plus , for what amounts to a 50-50 proposition in their minds anyway. A growing base of steady revenue from people with incentive to recommend the product to others seemed like a win-win proposition to me.

    -- Greg

  8. Greg: they could extend the eval period to 60 or 90 days, but giving the highest SKU away for free is just committing suicide. Caveats don't work. Period.

    And I too have to tell that here the first project written in VS-C# is starting... just because DevCo. is still behind the moon.

  9. "We are watching. But we are not waiting."

  10. Greg -> I agree with the 30 days not being enough. I recommended the purchase of D2K5 based on the pre-release tour demos, but it took me months to finally break away from my development schedule to finally have time to try to push it into production. Sadly, I found that Borland has shipped me a brick instead of an IDE and there was nothing I could do about it but feel ripped off.

    Sadly, I was unsuprised about it as lesssons like D4 and hourly IDE restarts have taught me a certain level of distrust, and I kick myself for letting myself get tricked into a purchase based on a simple demo of a stock IDE and a discount. That was when I seriously turned up the volume on my voice of dissent. I realized that no change would happen unless the problems were exposed, and most people were still locked firmly in "fanactic denial" mode.

    This, of course, is why I will not touch D2k6 with a 10' pole. Hey, I tried the demo, and it was just as bad as D2K5. I've asked in past about whether the hot fixes will work on the demo version, so that I can properly re-evaluate Delphi again, but sadly get no answers and have no desire to download that much data for no reason.

    If it works right, I would love to use D2K6, but I just don't have the time to gamble that I can test it properly in 30 days, and hell, why should I have to? Borland used to be a quality name you could depend on.

    Let's say that I did pay for it out of own small developer pockets and decided that it was a steaming turd and wanted me money back. First, that is a LOT of money for a small developer to be out of for nothing, even if it will EVENTUALLY come back, months later. Second, who knows if Borland's return policy is anything like AOL's cancellation policy? WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO TAKE A RISK? Worse, why should I have to take a risk on something that use to be a sure thing?

    No, 30 days is not enough time, 60 or 90 days probably aren't enough time either. (hey, as a consultant, my time is litterally money and I have rent to pay, you know? Noone pays me when I have to stop to evaluate a product for a week only to find out I wasted my time).

    Devco DEFINIELY has a lot of hard work ahead of it to earn back customers.

    Espcially when you consider VisualStudio as an alternative. Heck, toss in Chrome and I don't even need to learn a new language, just a new framework I was going to learn anyways.

  11. Andrei -> it is funny, but you described the exact risk I took with D2K5. Borland normally gets the Delphi stable and useful by the second patch. That was EXACTLY what I said when I justified buying into D2K5 early to get the discount.

    Shame that bet never worked out. Actually, I understand that the same can be said for D2k6 - hotpatch 5 is needed before you can use it productively I am told, and that was well after update 2. Still, it is WELL ahead of D2K5, which is still waiting to be fixed (the unofficial patches and Delphi speedup help, but not enough. And why would I use unofficial patches and third party hacks to make a 2g product usable in the first place??)

    I do note that all our logic is based around the fact that we expect Borland to get it right eventually rather than straight out of the gate. Sadly, this has been the expectatations since the days of Del Y. While he went, the expectation that a product will ship whether it is ready of not still seems to have some momentum.

    DevCo definitely has to shake that, so when you return to days of yore, please make they are pre-Yolkam.

  12. Andrei: caveats don't work. The products you cited uses a completely different licensing model. IMHO it won't work for Delphi. Almost everybody would use it for free and after one "free" version there would be no Delphi at all.

    MS gives away no stripped version of Windows or Office. MS gives away products for free in any area they need to gain market share or push some other products of theirs. OEM licenses are machine bound that's why they are cheaper.

    Delphi loyalist: companies that don't buy enough licenses are usually those throwing money away in expensive cell phones, cars and laptops for managers. I saw one buying a $5000 graphic activex toolkit just because it made "pretty graphics"... Is a $3000 laptop ok and a $2000 tool that creates revenues too expensive? Ever tried to buy Sybase Powerdesigner? It's in the $2000-7000 and it just models.

    Per computer licenses will only increase costs. I have Delphi installed both on my desktop to work in the office and on my laptop to work outside - at customers' or home. Should I pay two licenses? C'mon.

    It is not true you cannot compete with "free" open source tools. I guess most people talking about Delphi prices are hobbists or people working in very small shops - and want everything for nothing.

    Only, Delphi quality must be on par with its price. I do not mind to spend some money for my primary development tool as long as it allows me to be productive enough to repay it as soon as I can.

  13. I wonder if Devco is actually in a position to go back to the old days even if it wanted to. In the old days of Borland, Borland tools were pretty much comprised of Borland technology; now the Delphi IDE is pretty much a wrapper around a bunch of licensed/open source technologies. Even something as core as the win32 memory manager is produced by a third party hobbyist. Guaranteeing technology quality is going to be tough when you don't control it. I don't think the task is impossible though, but maybe closer partnerships could be established, with third parties getting a substantial bonus based on the quality of their products.

  14. I think most developers would be more than willing to pay a reasonable price for BDS.

    Unfortunately, Borland did get overly worried about licensing (remember Dream Co and Delphi 5 -> 7?). And, at the same time, quality must have become a dirty word in Scotts Valley.

    My complaint is that D2k5 was unusable (and still is). D2k6 should've been given to those of us who were stupid enough to purchase the product without trying it for some time first.

    Personally, I won't make that mistake again.

    Can DevCo succeed if they need to sell Architect for upwards of $2,500? Not a chance. They won't sell enough copies. If they could, Borland wouldn't be trying to get rid of them right now. Will it mean reducing their expenses, number of employees, etc? Absolutely.

    The concept of "if we raise the price enough we can make it" is absurd. It doesn't work in non-tech companies and it won't work in DevCo either.

    Why hasn't someone picked up the products yet? Because, the possible future income stream isn't large enough to cover the investment. Most smart investors (those who have enough money to actually do something), won't take a risk just because they believe. There must be a rational economic basis for their investment. Just because we want Delphi to go on, doesn't mean it will.

    Microsoft has never created the best product and never will. But, in the land of general development, where people have to pay big bucks for the products, they are the winners. All other competitors are around due to the low cost of converting to their tools, open source, and a large user base willing to share their knowledge. Very few of them are getting rich (monetarily).

    In reality, the Market left Borland behind several years ago. D8, D2k5 and the initial versions of D2k6 just set the final locks in the door. It may take a year or two before it's final, but Delphi, as a successful commercial product is over.

    If DevCo wants to exist at all they are going to have to change everything including licensing, pricing, development, etc.

    In fact, why not open development to non-DevCo programmers? I'm sure there would be a large group who would be interested in improving the product. And, to be blunt, we couldn't be any worse.

  15. "I see now that Delphi competitors normally have some kind of advantage: "end users", behind the scenes sponsors, "critical" nature of their offerings, other products to push or get revenue from, possibly more." - Andrei.

    I think you're right on the mark. Rather than worrying about "spinning-off" DevCo, sell the individual products to another company that can use them as a sweetener to their own offerings. In fact, I remember that one of the rumours that was going around right after the announcement was that Delphi was going to Google and would be released as open source. At least, up to now, that hasn't come to fruition, but perhaps that's the best solution.

  16. "Are you sure? IBM and Oracle obtains probably more revenues than MS "where people have to pay big bucks for the products". MS has a large market share in the lower segments - they are still struggling to get share in the higher ones. " - Kent Morwath

    It's not quite apples to apples, but in 2004 MS did $10.4B in the last quarter ( whereas IBM did $4.6B the last quarter of 2005 ( So, yes, MS did more sales. And since "Sales from Microsoft's client unit, which includes the Windows operating system, rose 5.3 percent to $3.2 billion" that means that about $7.1B came from services, XBox and Enterprise Software.

    I believe if you look at the prices of Server 2003, 2005, SQL Server 2005, etc, you'll see the big numbers, just like Oracle and IBM.

    Thats why, and how, MS can give away VS and other products.


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