Borland exec doubts Sun's desktop chances

Borland Software Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Dale Fuller is not optimistic about partner company Sun Microsystems Inc.'s chance to unseat Microsoft Corp.on the desktop.

Fuller sat down with InfoWorld on Tuesday for a discussion on a variety of topics, including Sun's desktop endeavor.

Sun admittedly has taken heat from Wall Street for trying to compete with Microsoft Windows with Sun's Java Desktop System and StarOffice applications suite. But Sun is undaunted. Fuller, however, sides with the cynics.

"I think [Sun has] a snowball's chance in hell competing in the desktop market against Trash '80s," said Fuller, referring to a slang term for an old-style, Tandy system. Fuller said it is questionable whether Sun can compete successfully against Microsoft on the desktop.

Fuller and Borland Chief Technology Officer Blake Stone questioned the wisdom of competing head-to-head with Microsoft, even though Borland tools for Microsoft's platform compete with Microsoft's own Visual Studio. Borland officials, however, maintain that Microsoft is a partner.

"In the same way they see Visual Studio as an asset, they see us as an asset," Stone said.

On other matters, Fuller said:

The temporary name change from Borland to InPrise was misguided.

He talks to Borland founder Philippe Kahn each quarter, although Kahn no longer has an active position at the company. "(Borland) is his idea,'' Fuller said. "I'm just fulfilling what he started here at the company."

Borland does not outsource development but instead maintains Borland developers in several countries. While salaries may not be precisely equal to U.S. salaries, on a relative scale overseas developers make probably more than Borland's U.S.-based developers.

He and Stone stressed that not much can be done about the tide of jobs shifting to cheaper labor markets. Fuller said he recently met with Mexican President Vicente Fox, who told him about manufacturing jobs shifting from Mexico to China.

"We're a global company," Fuller said. "We compete against the world," Fuller said. He also said he opposed government restrictions that would force consumers to buy products from only their own country.

Borland revenues have grown from US$140 million in 1999 to about US$300 million today. Company revenues are split evenly between Windows and Java tools, and deployment software such as the Janeva Java-to-.Net bridge.

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