Suns tracking SGI

IBM dropped its offer to acquire Sun for $7billion. Sun has now a series of projects for which it has large costs, but no clear method of making money. What did Sun gain from open sourcing Solaris, from giving away Java, from embracing Linux, and so on? Irving Wladawsky-Berger (whose blog is worth reading) or whoever it was at IBM, figured out a strategy for making money by using Open Source software to lower the customer cost of things IBM customers needed, but IBM could not profitably sell at a competitive price.  The Oracle people did the same. Sun seems to have understood it was possible to make money with “free software”, but not how to build that into their strategy. The successful free software plan reduces vendor development costs and price to customer of stuff the vendors competitors sell that usually comes with or enables use of  the vendors key products. But Solaris was a Sun key product so it basically used free software to damage its own business. And it lost track of the purpose of Java. Sun Java now serves as the entry product for customers who will pay IBM and others when they become addicted to it. And OpenOffice just looks like an attempt to stick it to MicroSoft.

And dithering on processor roadmap is silly. I saw a talk from a SPARC designer and asked why they had to dedicate so much silicon to some obsolete memory management nonsense. The answer, decoded, was that the Solaris team was too busy working on x86 to make even minimal changes for SPARC. If you are going to do something like that, you should probably drop the entire product.

Anyways, Sun appears to be following Digital Equipment Corporation and SGI down the track. Storied companies with brilliant engineers and technology, lead by people who don’t have much sense of how to make money with it all.

Leave a Reply