Borland exhibits at PDC

By: John Kaster

Abstract: John K manned the Borland booth at the Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference the first day of the show. Read this article for pictures and observations.

The Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference (PDC) was held the week of October 22nd this year. In previous years, it has either overlapped the Borland Developer Conference (BorCon) or been very near the same time, which always presents Borland with a challenge both for having a booth presence or for sending engineers to attend the conference.

Because of the amount of time between the conferences, we were able to send some of our R&D engineers to the conference, and also have a booth on the exhibit floor this year. It was lots of fun being there, seeing old friends (two I hadn't seen in 10 years!), and surprising the attendees by having a booth at a Microsoft show.

Borland? What are you guys doing here?

Borland on the PDC sign
Borland on the PDC motif.

This was one of the most amusing reactions we got at PDC. Evidently, the people asking this question had been caught in a timewarp, and only remember the serious rivalry between Microsoft and Borland back through the early 1990s, and not the fact that Borland makes a very large proportion of its revenue by supporting the Microsoft platform.

We certainly have plans to continue this. Our CEO, Dale Fuller, has said repeatedly that we intend to provide the best development tools for the .NET platform, which is the next iteration of the Microsoft platform. Until .NET ships on the Windows platform, we'll continue to support the new releases of the Windows operation systems. Having a booth at PDC and sending half a dozen engineers down to attend the technical sessions would certainly indicate we're serious about supporting the Microsoft platform, wherever it may go.

Attendees brought to PDC by Borland

The convention center was two city blocks away from the hotels, and Monday was a hot and muggy day. Borland sponsored buses to bring attendees to the show from the major local hotels. There were signs in the lobby of the hotels that had "Microsoft PDC" and Borland on them. There were signs on the front of the buses, too, that surprised some of the attendees, including Anders Heljsberg, who mentioned that it was quite amusing to see the sign with Borland on it as he walked to the bus from his hotel. (More on Anders in a bit.)

Several times throughout the day people came up to me at the booth and thanked Borland for sponsoring the buses. One woman from Intel even insisted on shaking my hand, although I told her I couldn't personally take the credit. It seems sponsoring buses is a good way to make yourself popular at a show. If anyone has a picture of the Borland sign in any of the buses or in one of the hotels, I'd love to have a copy.

Great news! Jason P. Bukvich had the foresight to take a picture of Borland's bus schedule to PDC, and he was kind enough to email it to me. Here it is:

Borland bus

Old friends and new

We've been seeing a lot of certain people from Microsoft lately, like Steven Fell and Eric Andrae. Steven spoke at the BorCon 2001 in Long Beach this year, and spent a lot of time at their booth in the exhibit hall. Eric and Steve came to Borland earlier this year to give our R&D engineers a briefing on .NET, CLR, and IL and hung out for most of the day.

Tom and Eric
Tom Theobald, RAD group product manager, and Eric Andrae, .NET program manager

We gave Eric and many other people at the conference Delphi 6 shirts. They didn't even need to do anything embarrassing for it, or get their badges scanned. Many gave us their badges to scan anyway. I guess if they want a Delphi 6 shirt, they want Borland to be able to send them marketing information on our products.

Eric showing Delphi shirt
Eric said, "Wait a minute! I have to show the shirt!"

I think Anders Heljsberg must have a specific sensitivity to a gravitational pull of the Borland booth. Every conference or show we've been at that he's been at, he ends up hanging out at our booth for a while. Anders is a very friendly, interested, and interesting person. He is eager to discuss just about any topic, and is excellent at remembering people.

When I came to Borland in November of 1997, he had already left to work for Microsoft. I didn't actually meet him until May of 1999, at a Santa Cruz wedding of a mutual Borland friend. I introduced myself to him there and spoke with him for a little while, but resisted as much as possible doing shop talk. Since he had many friends at the wedding, I figured I'd let him socialize with his old friends, so we talked for no more than three or four minutes.

In January of 2000, on the return from a Pacific Northwest tour where Ylonda Davis and I started the "Stick-It" campaign, I recognized Anders getting on the same flight to San Jose. I called his name, and he recognized me. On his way past me to his seat, I asked him if I could get some pictures with him holding Borland bumper stickers. He thought it sounded like fun. When we got off the plane, he held the bumper stickers I had with me while I took the pictures. You can see the pictures at "John K's Stick-It! pictures".

Since then, I've seen him at several trade shows, including SD West, where he won "Dr. Dobb's Excellence in Programming" award. Every time, he has been unfailingly humorous and polite, always happy to hear things are going well at Borland. I was pleased to have an opportunity to talk to him again at PDC, when so much attention was focused on C# and .NET.

I was talking with Alessandro Federici, who was helping out at the Developer Express booth when Anders came to the Borland booth. Alessandro had mentioned to me previously that he had always wanted to meet Anders since starting to use Turbo Pascal when he was 12. Anders seemed bemused by this tidbit. This was definitely a photo opp.

Alex and Anders
Alessandro Federici, .NET and Anders Heljsberg fan, with Anders, C# and .NET architect

As Anders, Alex and I were talking, other ex-Borland employees started showing up at the booth. To my amusement, they were also asking "What's Borland doing here?" I just gave them an exasperated look and they'd grin kind of sheepishly and say, "Oh yeah" or words to that effect. They all started catching up on old times, and continued to hang around the booth. I knew it was going to get more crowded when one of them answered a cell phone call and said "I'm over at the Borland booth."

Motley crew
Eric Swenson, Anders, Jesper Schulz, and Mark Sikes. All former Borland employees

Anders teased me that every time he sees me, I take his picture. This made me realize I hadn't had a picture of him taken with me, so I finally had one taken.

Anders and me
Anders and me

After that, I had to talk to some more people at our booth about how our products worked with the Microsoft platforms, including .NET, so I started losing track of the other people who showed up. Here's one picture I did manage to take in the lull between talking to visitors.

A bigger group
The group is growing

Some really old friends

Two of the most pleasant surprises I had at the show was running into Mike Schinkel, founder of VBXtras, and co-author of a book with me called Programming in Clipper 5. I hadn't seen him in about 10 years. Since Mike resells products for the Microsoft market, it wasn't that much of a surprise to see him, although I didn't get a chance to talk with him after seeing him in the lunch line. Unfortunately, I was only at PDC for the day. David I came down to man the booth while I came back up to Scotts Valley to prepare for the XML edge and Web Services Edge show in Santa Clara. That will be discussed in another article shortly.

An even bigger surprise was running into an old friend from Virginia who now lives in Michigan. Jerry Abraham and I partnered on some consulting work back when I was an independent contractor, and he's done really well since we lost track of each other. I was really glad to see him and hear that several of his business ventures have borne fruit. When I first met him, he had a beat up Nissan Pulsar with a top cruising speed of 35 mph because of its shot turbo. Jerry has come a long way from there.

It was nice to see so many old friends at PDC, and find so many Borland fans there as well. I hope next year's PDC doesn't overlap BorCon 2002 in Anaheim, because it would be great to come back and attend sessions and work our booth there again.

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