Friday, March 14, 2008

CodeGear / Borland drops Turbo product line

I remember not too far back how Borland (i.e., CodeGear now - for the software development tools portion of the company) brought back the old "Turbo" moniker for some of it's products, resurecting a brand from the old TurboPasal days. They had Turbo Delphi and a couple others offered as FREE downloads for a while.
Well that didn't last long! From their website news now:
"Turbo Delphi 2006 Professional, Turbo Delphi 2006 for .NET Professional and Turbo C++ 2006 Professional are no longer available. CodeGear recommends our newer versions Delphi 2007 for Win32, C++Builder 2007 and CodeGear RAD Studio 2007 which include support for Windows Vista, faster performance, enhanced IDE and build system and much more."
The call them "retired" now. I just can't figure out from day-to-day, week-to-week, and certainly not year-to-year what CodeGear and/or Borland is doing from a marketing perspective. So, you TRY to generate interest in your products via freeware. Then, perhaps people don't buy your for-cost products. So, you get rid of the free ones hoping people will buy newer for-cost products? Is that what's going on? Or is it something else?

I had this discussion with my friend Kirby Turner from White Peak Software, who provided his insight and thoughts on the matter which I will now either quote or closely paraphrase. Kirby has a long history with Borland products, and like me, he really thinks Delphi is an exceptional development tool for custom software and commercial applications. I found his insight and perspective definitely worth sharing for consideration.
Turbos are gone? Great news! They only lead to confusion. Free trials are still available for all CodeGear latest products. So CodeGear is still giving people a free avenue for trying the software.
As Nick Hodges use to say, the Turbos were for hobbyist, not professional programmers. I think having the Turbos lead to confusion. I remember when Delphi 2007 Win32 came out. People were asking "But what about the Turbos". The Turbos were intended for a different target audience. Oh, and the Turbos came in different editions leading to more confusion. There was the freeware Turbos which did not allow you to use 3rd party components, and there were the paid editions of Turbos. It was the paid editions that I think really lead to confusion among customers. Example, "How is Turbo Delphi Professional different than Delphi 2007 Win32?" Heck, the paid versions of the Turbo were not that much cheaper then the non-Turbo counterparts.
Does dropping the free editions of the Turbos suck for the hobbyist programmer who is interested in Windows development? Sure, but I'm willing to bet that the number of hobbyist looking towards CodeGear is very, very small. And I for one would rather see CodeGear focus energy on professional developers and not hobbyist. There are plenty of open source alternatives for hobbyist programmers. Besides, the Turbos were never as up to date as the non-Turbos.
Bringing back the Turbos and having them on a different release cycle than the mainline products was a mistake. Dropping the Turbos is a good move in my opinion.
As for Microsoft (MSFT) and the Express Editions of the developer tools (Visual Basic.NET, Visual C#, and Visual C++), I could be wrong about this but I seem to remember those free editions come with licensing limitations. The biggest limitation effecting people like you and me is that you cannot release commercial software built from the Express editions. That may have recently changed, I don't really know. And I don't know what the other limitations are with the Express editions, but I'm sure I still need to have my licensed professional edition instead of the express edition.
I think CodeGear is also now going after a different type of developer than Microsoft. Microsoft is king in the corporate world. But there are plenty of other shops in the world and I think CodeGear recognizes this. In the micro-ISV world Delphi is on the rise. I read the private forums at ASP and the number of Delphi developers is growing. Many are ex-VB developers who do not want to go to VB.NET. Others are looking for a better development experience compared to other products such as RealBasic.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, CodeGear needs to separate from Borland. It needs to be a private company and remain small and agile. And they need to continue targeting the non-corporate developer. I feel CodeGear can be hugely successful in its market if it can separate from Borland and the bad press of Borland.
I must say, I totally agree with Kirby's statement about CodeGear needing to separate itself from Borland and really maintain a developer focus and a clear marketing message. I'm a huge fan of Delphi, and CodeGear's Delphi for PHP (which, I hate the NAME of) is getting my attention, and their Third Rail (Ruby development platform) is also interesting.
But, they really need to start getting consistent releases out the door and instill confidence in the marketplace that they, and their products, will exist regardless of how poorly Borland (BORL) does - which, as evidenced by their stock price lately, doesn't appear so hot. Kirby is right: getting rid of market confusion by dropping those "Turbo" products is a good step in the right direction. Now, I'm just waiting for the inevitable release of CodeGear Delphi 2008 - which I sure hope isn't too far away now.

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