PowerBuilder History, Powersoft HistoryWritten by Patrick Lannigan - Winter 2004
Powersoft grew out of a company called Computer Solutions Inc (CSI), which was founded in 1974. In the beginning, CSI, like many software companies, providing consulting services. In CSI's case, they focused on small to medium sized manufacturers. As a result of their experience in this field, they decided to build their own software package called GrowthPower. It was released in 1981. It was an MRP II system with a suite of integrated financial products which ran (exclusively) on the HP3000 platform. There was, at one time, over 1,000 customers for GrowthPower.
Mitchell Kertzman, the CEO of GrowthPower, started to solicit feedback from his customers on their future needs. The answer came back loud and clear. They wanted a graphical interface (remember that by this time, in the early 90s, Windows was catching on like wildfire and made the old "character" interfaces look inferior). So, CSI started looking around for tools and technology to build their next generation application. They didn't like what they saw. The only tools at the time that could provide a graphical interface required programmers to use the C language.
As luck would have it, Dave Litwack, former VP of R&D for Cullinet, had just left Cullinet after they got bought by Computer Associates and was circulating a business plan within the venture capital community in the Boston area seeking funding to build an easy to use client/server graphical tool that would communicate with the most popular relational databases like Oracle and Sybase. Dave Litwack had difficulty finding somebody to fund him, but then ran into Mitchell Kertzman. PowerBuilder was born a year or so after their first date.
Powersoft's PowerBuilder 1.0
David Litwack headed up the R&D effort for PowerBuilder and Version 1.0 went into beta (with a codename of "Headstart") in August of 1990. Some of the firms who participated in the beta program were American Airlines, Microsoft, 3M, Fidelity Investments, Coca-Cola, and many others.
PowerBuilder Version 1.0 went into official release in July of 1991. In just six months, Powersoft sold $5.2 million worth of product. Version 2.0 was released less than one year later and sales (in 1992) climbed to $22.1 Million. Profitability was also achieved in the first quarter of 1992.
Powersoft Goes Public
Powersoft went public on February 3, 1993. Shares surged from $20 to $38 a share on the day. Shares were volatile for the next weeks and months but then enjoyed a steady climb as Powersoft continued to pump out record results (1993 revenue was 57m, and 1994 revenue was 133 m). Then, when investors and executives alike were basking in the sunlight of infallibility, some gentlmen callers came knocking. There was an offer made. It was an offer like no other offers. The groom asking for Powersoft's hand in marriage was Sybase and the billion dollar dowry offer was very seductive. So a wedding/merger was arranged on February 13, 1995. I hope they took pictures during the wedding ceremony and honeymoon because the "paper valuation" (the deal was done with Sybase stockóworth $904m) didn't last long. The bad news arrived in the form of fabricated (Sybase) sales results. Sybase stock took a tumble, along with the fortune of many Powersoft executives like Mitchell Kertzman and David Litwack.
Despite the troubles at Sybase, Powersoft's PowerBuilder technology still enjoyed a dominant role in new client server development, until 1996. That's when the Web went wild. That's also when Visual Basic grew up and Borland's Delphi product was launched. On top of these troubles, users were experiencing problems building enterprise applications with PowerBuilder (it wasn't a fault of PowerBuilder per se, but rather it was a problem with client/server applications overall). Budgets were suddenly diverted to Web projects. Visual Basic and Delphi users started to outnumber Powersoft programmers. Talk of PowerBuilder faded slowly, and never quite regained its former glory.
The PowerBuilder groupies still hung on, but the glory days were gone forever.
Get the Wikipedia details about Powersoft and PowerBuilder Here.
Powersoft PowerBuilder Advertisements
Link to LARGE Powersoft Advertisement (Everything You Asked For.) (Opens in a New Window.)
(Below) Two images scanned from a two-page advertisement on PowerBuilder Desktop.
This advertisement was a defensive play against the growing strength of Visual Basic and MS-Access. If I remember correctly, PowerBuilder desktop sold for US$249. PowerBuilder sales were growing so rapidly that if a developer had PowerBuilder experience, they could demand higher rates. Powersoft was keenly aware of this factóand there were other advertisements (not included here) that featured "PowerBuilder Developers Wanted." (Unfortunately I couldn't put my hands on one of those advertisements.)
Email Patrick Lannigan at lannigan at gmail dot com for more information
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