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Borland Destroyed Itself, Frankly

bamcWell, yes, $99 prices do get our attention, don’t they?

But an introductory price under a hundred bucks certainly isn’t going to be the key to whether the Redmond gang succeeds in its effort to muscle into the serious database market — one of only two applications-software areas where it has never been able to compete.

(The other area? Async communications, where Microsoft sold briefly seven years ago one of the worst programs ever shipped. It was named — eerily — Microsoft Access. I think I might have been a little more sensitive to history, Mr. Gates.)

Nope, $99 prices won’t do it. All Gates & Co. are doing with that teaser price is getting our attention and asking us to take a look — in effect, asking us to pick up the production and distribution costs, plus a pence or two for the shareholders, for our evaluation copies.

Scared of commitment

Committing to a database program is among the most difficult and worrisome decisions information systems professionals have to make. Given the huge investment in databases, in-house development expertise and tools, and end-user training, walking away from one database and choosing another is a decision few of us look forward to.

Indeed, that inertia is the single largest factor shaping the corporate market for database packages for PCs and networks.

Borland, of course, has been a direct beneficiary of that inertia. By acquiring both Paradox and then later dBASE, Borland bought market share by the barrelful. Many thought Borland overpaid for dBASE, but by assembling the dominant market share between its two high-end products, Borland was able to stake claim to almost half the installed base of high-end PC database products.

Borland bought itself some security. Market share, with its attendant upgrade income, and the time to develop follow-on products are often worth buying.

By contrast, Microsoft has less than a third as large a slice of the market as Borland, via last summer’s purchase of Fox.

By the usual rules of the PC applications-software business, Borland ought to be well-positioned to stay on top. But the well-publicized delays this year in getting Windows versions of Paradox and dBASE to market (as well as critical delays in other new Borland products) have undermined that market-dominance security.

I say this with some difficulty. I told audiences in speeches in late 1991 that I thought 1992 was going to be The Year of Borland. With rich, far-reaching products such as Paradox 4.0, Paradox for Windows, Quattro Pro 4.0, Quattro Pro for Windows and dBASE for Windows coming this year, Borland was about to enter the most remarkable new-product-release cycle we’d ever seen in the PC software business.

The stock was going to soar.

In fact, of course, too many of those products slipped — and badly. And the stock got slaughtered.

If, as I suspect, Borland is about to lose serious database market share to Microsoft, coming in from left field, and even more market share to the Oracles of the world, coming down from the big-iron universe, it will have squandered an extraordinary franchise.

Paradox for Windows is still one of the most dazzling products I’ve seen. And it’s hard to knock a guy who says, as Borland’s Philippe Kahn is wont to, “eet weel sheep when eet is ready, and not before.”

But Borland’s customers have been on the hook for a very long time. During that time, notwithstanding our reluctance to make such a painful change as switching from one database product to another, the Windows imperative has created a real urgency in many shops to find a Windows front end to existing databases.

Enter Microsoft Access.

I’ve only worked with Access a little, so I can’t claim expertise with it yet. But everything I see, as I peel back the layers of the onion, I like.

I am not especially cheered by the prospect of Microsoft dominating yet another area of Windows apps as thoroughly as it does word processing and spreadsheets. But when you make scary decisions, it helps to go with strength. And Access looks very, very strong.

posted by Coder Carl in Uncategorized and have Comment (1)

One Response to “Borland Destroyed Itself, Frankly”

  1. Jason Garnett says:

    You may also want to refer to books if you are really serious about learning it. These are quite pricey but are really great investments.

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