Borland Grabs For A Lifeline

BORLAND INTERNATIONAL INC., BATTERED AND BEATEN in the mainstream business PC software market, has been down for the count a few times in the last couple of years. Facing a huge potential liability after losing a copyright-infringement case against Lotus Development Corp. as well as tough competition from Microsoft Corp., it sold its spreadsheet business to Novell earlier this year. Its long-awaited rewrite of the dBase program has kept it afloat but barely treading water (chart). Now, it's ready for yet another comeback attempt--but in a much smaller arena.

At Comdex, CEO Philippe Kahn will demonstrate a product code-named Delphi, an object-oriented programming tool that will help corporations create their own software for so-called client-server computing. Programmers using Delphi can create large programs from smaller, prewritten programs--i.e., objects. Some of those objects are hooks that pull data out of other programs on a network, such as Oracle Corp.'s Oracle 7 database, Sybase Inc.'s SQL server, and Lotus' Notes.

Early reviews in trade magazines have given Delphi excellent marks, and Kahn describes it as "the pivotal point" for a Borland turnaround. Still, Delphi won't ship until next March, and Borland has yet to prove it can successfully market the product against established competitors such as Microsoft's Visual Basic and PowerSoft's PowerBuilder. Meanwhile, analysts continue to speculate about Borland as a takeover candidate. The stock is hovering at about 10, off its 52-week high

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