Here's another Blast From the Past, this time about Kylix. It was originally posted on December 12, 2003.
Sadly, Kylix isn't fairing in the market place as well as Borland would like. Borland never really releases sales figures, but it's pretty safe to say that Kylix hasn't generated as much revenue as Borland would like. (Of course, no product every does, I guess. Who wouldn't want more revenue from any product?) Whether it has or ever will actually pay for its cost of development isn't known. What is known, however, is that Kylix is a pretty cool idea, that it is the most feature rich development tool in the Linux world. Sadly, though, it doesn't seem to sell many copies.
Now, why it doesn't sell probably can be debated, but whether it is because the Linux world doesn't want to pay money for tools and applications, because it is “too buggy”, or because it “is a dead product”, the fact is that it doesn't sell well. But certainly one of the reasons that it doesn't sell is that the applications it builds are perceived as a bit unwieldy. Kylix applications require the Trolltech qt library to be shipped with them. An application built with Kylix actually has to go from Pascal through a layer to a C++ library in order to work. The C++ version has to go C++ to Pascal, back to C++ again. Such a long trip doesn't make for a necessarily clean, easy to build and deploy application. Far be it from me to complain or second guess the design decisions made by the Kylix development team, but this fact is a sticking point for many potential Kylix customers.
Actually, I misspoke. It is GUI applications that have to make these trips. Kylix brings Rapid Application Development to GUI applications and Linux, but Kylix can do a lot more than that. Kylix can build application servers and Apache Dynamic Shared Object (DSO) modules. It can build these without all the hassles of the qt library and the multiple layers of code. In fact, it makes building such applications quick and easy, and it build native code executables an libraries. Kylix's ability to create power server applications is very much an unheralded and under-appreciated feature of the product. And since Linux's strength lies in being a server, there seems to be a disconnect somewhere.
This disconnect is where Kylix might actually be able to reverse its trend and actually make some money. I propose that Borland take Kylix, strip out all of the qt-based GUI features, and sell it as a server building application development tool. Call it ApacheBuilder, or MiddleBuilder, or ServerBuilder, or whatever (it should be clear that you'd be foolish to hire me to name your product). Sell it as a great way to build the applications that Linux users are actually running – server applications.
Linux's major inroads in the marketplace have been as a server, whether it be a database server, a web server, a J2EE server, or any other kind of server. Linux on the desktop remains the dream of many a Linux Distribution seller and Slashdot cowboy, but for now, it is just that, a dream. Microsoft has no intention of letting Linux cut into its desktop market the way it has in the server market, so trying to sell a development tool that builds desktop applications may be a non-starter, but selling and marketing a tool that builds the kinds of applications that Linux users want and need -- now there's a way to make money.
Now I don't know the technical requirements or exactly what work would need to be done to make this happen. Perhaps it would be too much work to make it worthwhile. Perhaps it isn't even possible. But I do think that marketing a tool that has as its main emphasis the building of servers would hit a sweet spot in the Linux community. For instance, Apache is easily the most popular web server on Linux, and Kylix makes it pathetically easy to build powerful, native DSO libraries that run on Apache. How many potential Kylix customers even know or realize this? With the dbExpress database technology and the WebSnap architecture, building dynamic, database driven Apache extensions is quick, easy, and powerful. That feature of Kylix, however, was sort of drowned out by the hype of the RAD, GUI development side of things.
Bottom line: By actually reducing the feature set of Kylix, and by marketing it as a server development tool, Borland might actually be able to turn Kylix into a successful product, and a tool that Linux developers want and need.