Sun Joins The Dark Lord: Brilliant Strategic Move or Totally Lost?

By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Saturday, September 15, 2007

Anakin Skywalker->Darth Vader

As you all probably know by now Sun decided to sell Windows 2003 servers (gasp, sputter… Scott McNealy would surely turn in his grave on hearing this news; wait a minute, he is still the Chairman of Sun) on its hardware. The key question on everyone’s mind is has Sun finally found a direction as Microsoft’s partner or has Sun joined the dark side as some would like to say or has Sun finally lost its marbles or whether it is really a strategically brilliant move? Significantly Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems, is eerily silent on his blog about this initiative and continues to promote OpenOffice as an alternative to Microsoft Office.

Excerpt from Press Release

Sun and Microsoft will work together to ensure that Solaris runs well as a guest on Microsoft virtualization technologies and that Windows Server runs well as a guest in Sun’s virtualization technologies.

Sun and Microsoft will continue to collaborate to advance the worldwide deployment of the Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV and multimedia platform on Sun server and storage systems.

Microsoft and Sun will build an Interoperability Center on Microsoft’s Redmond campus. The center will include a demonstration area for Sun x64 systems, act as a working lab for Windows on Sun benchmarks and sales tools, and support customers running proofs of concept for projects focused on Windows on Sun x64 systems, including joint Sun/Microsoft solutions in areas such as databases, e-mail and messaging, virtualization, and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) support in Sun Ray thin clients.

Sun’s Strategy or lack of it…

Sun's Strategy
Sun’s strategy by ArsTechnica

In its early days McNealy adopted a strong anti-Microsoft position primarily as a marketing tactics and continued it over the years. I really doubt that it helped Sun in any way.
Sun did however undertake several initiatives over the years to undermine Microsoft of which only Java succeeded and Star Office / Open Office to some extent.

Java Desktop is one of the many initiatives where Sun couldn’t make much headway. In the process Sun ended up open sourcing Solaris & Java, both of which, especially Solaris, I think are strategic blunders.

Solaris (and many would say the original Sun OS) was the life blood of Sun for many years. Sun OS & Solaris on Sun hardware is what gave Sun strategic advantage in the middleware market. While Sun lost its ground in recent years, I would attribute it more to lack of comparative CPU performance improvement (wrt. Intel chips) than to Solaris. Solaris remains to this day the leading stable production ready operating system.

Sun should have moved over to using Intel chips much earlier. Steve Jobs made a wise decision to move over to Intel chips and so should have Sun. Moving over to Intel (not Wintel) would have allowed Sun to keep its competitive advantage. Instead Sun at one point decided to even downgrade importance of supporting Solaris on Intel chips.

Several of recent Sun’s initiatives leads me to think that Sun is not following a unified strategic vision in the last 4-5 years. Most of Sun’s initiatives appears to be fishing expeditions, unguided by a vision or sense of purpose. Sun reminds me of our Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO) which is spending our military fund on agriculture; and prides itself on finding the hottest chilli.

Logically the only option that Sun has moving forward is jumping 100% into the services bandwagon and start competing with the likes of IBM & Infosys.

Sun Preparing for Microsoft Takeover?

If I were to speculate, I wouldn’t rule-out a takeover of Sun by Microsoft. First a 2 billion dollar dole and now Microsoft has Sun as its Windows 2003 server vendor, Microsoft definitely has Sun by the short hairs.

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