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Sun: Threatened by Standards?

Posted by pbrittan on October 17, 2003 at 6:39 AM PDT

Can 'standards' and 'standardization' be two unrelated concepts?

There was an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Cloud Over Sun Microsystems: Plummeting Computer Prices, which dissects Sun’s current financial and strategic challenges.

One of the interesting claims in the article is that "Scott McNealy, Sun's chief executive for the past 19 years, long resisted the standardization trend sweeping across the tech industry." The articles asserts that "The wager paid off, making Sun the dominant provider of the server computers that power Internet sites and corporate computing. But now the company is paying a big price for bucking the tech mainstream -- and scrambling to keep customers and stay afloat."

It's ironic to see Sun portrayed as a company that has consciously flown in the face of standardization, when in practice Sun champions open standards precisely as a way to differentiate itself from Microsoft.

So, which company does this article say represents mainstream standardization? Microsoft. "Sun appears to be the latest casualty of the rising tide of tech standardization, led by Intel and Microsoft. Many companies in the history of high-tech -- Digital Equipment Corp. and Apple Computer Inc., among others -- believed they could resist standard designs and thus ultimately charge a premium for their products. In the end, a lot of these companies were either acquired or hang on in the industry as smaller players."

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