We’ve said it before, when buying software, corporate customers prefer umbrella packages to best of breed. While not everything lends itself to big packages, the list keeps getting smaller each day as apps and tools are increasingly subsumed into (choose one) the operating system, application server, enterprise application, or database.
And so it goes with portals, which are essentially a function of whatever your company’s dominant data source or ISV is. Theoretically one of the easiest software investments to cost justify, who can argue against a portal that personalizes the information that account reps get if it helps them shorten the sales cycle?
But unlike enterprise applications like ERP or CRM, portals are tactical, not destination buys. Why buy a specialized portal if your dominant source of information comes from a particular application or set of databases? Or, in content management provider Vignette’s view, a way to provide access to content? That was their rationale for buying portal vendor Epicentric. But the PacMan process won’t end there, because content is no longer king (was it ever?), business processes are. That makes content/portal management logically an extension of OSs, ERP/CRM systems, databases, or in environments requiring multiple sources to be integrated, appservers or EAI brokers. We wouldn’t be surprised if somebody else subsequently snaps up Vignette.
What about application development tools? Long ago, Microsoft popularized the integrated development environment (IDE) that made standalone code editors, debuggers and other point tools obsolete. And with its latest version, VS.NET, Microsoft adds APIs that further bind third party niche tools to its common UI shell, not to mention the underlying .NET middleware framework. Exactly the thing that rival IBM is also doing with the open source Eclipse framework on the Java side.
Borland, a niche tools survivor if there ever was one, is now trodding the same path, thanks to recent acquisitions of Starbase, and just now, TogetherSoft. Until now, Borland has survived on its wits, making the best IDEs or niche languages such as Delphi and others. With the new strategy, Borland taking a page out of Rational’s book, something that rivals CA and Compuware have been less successful at to date.
On paper, the Borland/TogetherSoft/Starbase synergy is compelling, because the tools boast superior ease of use, and in the case of TogetherSoft Control Center, ease of integration between UML modeling and the Java IDE. (The product forced Rational’s hand in their release of XDE.)
Maybe Borland might have an easier time integrating its tools, something that Rational has accomplished only in a loose sense since it began its acquisition spree five years ago. But the real challenge will be market share, not technology. Its biggest hurdle? Overcoming Rational’s lucrative relationship with IBM’s ubiquitous Global Services. Spurned by Oracle, which is bulking up its own JDeveloper tools, we expect Borland to align closer to BEA, which lacks tools and is vying with Oracle to become the non-Microsoft/IBM “third way.”