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Thoughts on "What Sun Should Do"

Posted by terrencebarr on November 26, 2008 at 1:36 PM PST

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Without Java, SUN would be an hardware company among many other ones. Without hardware, SUN would not have enough profit centers, not enough opportunities. Both parts can't be separated, as if one has problem, the other can help for profit. I think the same is true for both sides, the client-side and the server-side. Maybe the business model should be better emphasized. When I click on the link "Price and Buy" for Sun GlassFish Enterprise Server (, I go the page that says : "" Get Sun GlassFish Enterprise Server Download the Sun Java System Application Server at no cost no kidding. "" Then, the business model does not appear easily. I think both sides, open source and business model on top of it, should be equally emphasized, and may be better presented on your web site. While I think following open source is the way to go, no doubt here, I don't think being called an "open source company" helps that much, if people believe everything should be free. Why not putting also the accent on "no lock-in" or "no lock-in from standard compliance" ? I know the SUN softwares, but I don't know the corresponding business models. Is licence sold by CPU ? Is subcription sold by SLA ? by a number of bug support during one year ? etc. Years ago, SUN had no reputation for its softwares. Now, Glassfish, for example, is known of being one of the best, if not, the best Java EE servers out there, open source or not. I think you have a great portfolio and reaches a critical threshold that could bring opportunities, while mixing thoses technologies or while having enough big communities. Anything that could push bigger those communities (pluggable/extendable architecture, docs...) will be also a plus here.

Since Rich mentioned Apple, I'll bring up the oft-repeated speculation about a Sun - Apple merger. It would make good sense for Sun, but why would Apple do it? To become more than a consumer products company, which is definitely a commodity business domain. Sun would benefit from Apple's marketing savvy and ability to identify opportunities (iPod, iMac, iPhone). Apple would diversify into Sun's back-end businesses. The two complement each other with little overlap. Apple would provide the client side and Sun the server side. So how do two businesses that are in different commodity business lines make money together? By selling the client side and server side together along with high value-added professional services. The problem is that neither company has been very good at selling services. Sun surely sees the need to change, and Apple should recognize the opportunity to diversify. But it probably won't happen, at least not with the current leadership at both companies.

Hi Terrence, I think the trick is not fighting commoditization but rather, surfing that wave, as its going to come in and you will either ride it to the beach, or drown. But if you are going to do that you've got to keep swimming back out and catching waves - inventing really new stuff, making high margin profits early in its life cycle, then making low margin profits on large volumes late in its life cycle. Sun rode the wave twice - once on commercializing advanced microprocessor based workstations and servers, and once on Java. But the Java wave started in 1995 and has pretty much beached now, and Sun did not catch the next wave. On client-side - I think you're right, that there's opportunity there. Apple has certainly found some. The trick I think though isn't inventing the tech, it is monetizing it. What should Sun do to monetize JavaFX, for instance? You can find my ideas on What Sun Should Do at