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Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Microsoft Adopts 'Co-opetition' With Borland

Who would have thunk it? It's Ray Noorda's "co-opetition" all over again, only it's being practiced by his arch enemy, Microsoft.

From its earliest days, Microsoft has been a strong supplier of software development tools for Windows. It's also had a keen sense of how to cultivate a developer community. Sun Microsystems and IBM have learned from its example and become much more aggressive about extending resources to developers than they used to be.

Now Microsoft is showing that it too can learn a trick or two from the competition.

It's filling the gaps that seaparate Visual Studio from its high end competitors in the Java world with offerings from Borland Software Corp. Over the past two months, it's plugged two major holes in Visual Studio by going to Borland.

One was Visual Studio's lack of ability to deal with Unified Modeling Language 2.0, which underlies some of the best system design tools on the market. Microsoft has been reluctant to commit itself to UML, which has a lot of IBM fingerprints on it. Grady Booch and Jim Rumbaugh, current IBM employees, are heavy contributors to it. The third member of UML's Three Amigos was Ivar Jacobsen, who's now an independent consultant.

In addition to the IBM fingerprints, UML is complex and Microsoft believes it will be able to come up with a simpler approach to modeling that more developers will use. But no one knows for sure when it might emerge.

Borland's Together 2005 for Visual Studio .Net, announced in April, supplies UML 2.0 modeling, with Microsoft's blessing. Prashant Sridharan, senior product manager for Visual Studio 2005, was on hand to second the motion when Borland said it would supply Together 2005 for Visual Studio. Sridharan is a rarity at Microsoft, someone who has authored a successful Java book, Advanced Java Networking, Prentice Hall 1997, written before he joined Microsoft.

The other gap that Borland filled was Visual Studio's lack of requirements management--the ability to connect the dots between what business users require and an application's model, as well as its source code and the tests designed to check that it functions as intended. Tying requirements directly to code (and the model) is a big step toward guaranteeing more satisfactory results to business users, development experts say.

Borland's requirements management tool, CaliberRM, will come out geared to Visual Studio's high end, Team System collaborative tools. It will work inside Team System when launched, even though you buy CaliberRM from Borland.

Borland of course remains a keen competitor in tools with its Delphi rapid Windows application development tools and its C++ Builder. But a maturing Microsoft is finding "co-opetition" has its advantages. Especially when you're trying to keep up with Java tools from Compuware, IBM, Sun, Telelogic and the fast growing open source programmer's workbench, Eclipse.

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