How about an Apple-Sun merger?

by Steve Anglin

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At last week's Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, Sun wasn't very visible. That's surprising considering that Apple is very important to Sun's plans on getting Java accepted on the desktop and much more. Furthermore, I believe that given both companies' poor financial positioning in the equity market, an Apple-Sun merger or, at least, partnership would make sense for the following reasons.

Apple Takes Java Further.

Apple is currently the leading desktop implementor of Sun's Java programming language, specifically the Java 2 Standard Edition platform, which includes the desktop JDK and the Java Foundation Classes (JFC), including Swing and Java 2D APIs for application GUI development. Additionally, Apple could potentially take the Java Media APIs further as well. Since Mac OS X is based on an open source FreeBSD kernel, Sun is hoping other open source advocate firms such as Red Hat adopt Java as these firms make headway in the desktop market.

Distribution Channel for StarOffice?

Sun may view Apple as a potential primary distributor of the StarOffice suite. Apple may be considering a suite of office software that replaces MS Office. There is speculation that Apple may adopt StarOffice and include Keynote presentation and other recently announced software, and distribute/bundle with certain Mac units.

Enterprise Mac OS X?

Apple may view Sun as a key to expand beyond the desktop and multimedia hardware markets; and gain legitimate entry into the enterprise arena. Sun's server hardware and its market may be attractive to Apple. Apple would like to get its Mac OS X for the rack-mount server out there as an accepted server-side, enterprise OS solution. What better way than Sun?

For Sun, they may see this as a new selling opportunity for its Sun ONE Web application server suite of middleware and software. Although Macromedia's JRun could be some competition, my hedge is that Apple would abandon its current emphasis on WebObjects in favor of a Sun merger or partnership here.

What do you think of such a potential merger or partnership?


2003-01-16 14:45:53
No Way
Steve Jobs will not after what Sun did to NeXT
with their OPENSTEP partnership.
2003-01-16 15:58:34
1996 in reverse
I remember before Jobs returned via the reverse NeXT take over of Apple, many rumors were flying. Sun would buy Apple. Or maybe it would be IBM or Dell or Oracle.

Today, I think that the roles have reversed. Apple could make case to take over Sun (or maybe Oracle) as their ticket into the enterprise market.

However, mergers are tricky. NeXT/Apple worked only because of the unique stature of Jobs in both companies. And "partnerships" are a hazy proposition. Name a partnership that has really worked. (Remember when Apple once sold Power Mac servers that ran IBM's AIX.)

Still a joint Sun/Apple skunkworks project to port a true Mac OS X version of StarOffice could lead to huge benefits to both firms.

Lee Joramo

2003-01-16 17:32:41
Dear God dont let this idea come true!
It was a bad idea in 96 and nothing has improved about this since. Just because Apple is a leading user of certain Sun technologies is not a reason for the companies to merge. We are talking about two copmletely different cultures of companies and users, not to mention "System V vs. BSD".

As far as Star/OpenOffice goes I hope Apple does not go down that road either. StarOffice is bloated, slow and ugly. Even if it was Carbonized or redone in Cocoa, I could not see most Mac users enjoying using it. Most people I know who choose Star/OpenOffice over MS Office do so for ideological reasons rather than functionality.

Please give a bit more thought to your idea before posting next time.

Chris Barker

2003-01-17 07:14:16
It will be KDE Office
Apple will not use OpenOffice unless it really does consider a merger with Sun, in which case they will have to beat Dell to the deal. They will most likely either upgrade their AppleWorks application or port and improve KDE Office. The KDE office makes sense since it will interoperate with the browser better then Open Office will. The KDE team have proven themselves to build good software through the use of an efficient code base.
2003-01-17 07:28:14
It'll be StarOffice
I have a friend who works in Sun as a consultant and who told me during MacWorld in SF that Sun was working with Apple to get StarOffice ready for Apple's Mac OS X.
2003-01-17 09:13:20
Drop Webobjects? I don't think so.
Why would Apple want to drop WebObjects? It is an elegant, robust Web Application development environment where as Sun One/JSP/J2EE is a kludgy, complex, over engineered mess.
2003-01-17 09:16:49
not that I'm an investor, but ...
It might help Sun's stock price but it might also make some of their current efforts seem wasteful.

I wouldn't do it, Mr. Jobs.

2003-01-17 09:21:05
Yeah, this was suggested years ago, before NeXT "aquired" Apple. People referred to a fictiours merger as "SunApple" or SNAPPLE. However, Jobs said in the early to mid 80's that the company is one or the other, not both. Jobs was referring to being an enterprise company (e.g., IBM) or, well Apple (consumer oriented, graphics).
2003-01-17 10:20:38
How about OS X for Sun Ultras?
It's a space that Apple doesn't compete in, it would give Sun hardware a much needed shot in the arm in terms of popularity and would serve both companies well.

Let each company keep its management. Porting OS X to Sun hardware (which is mostly the same, except for the CPU and even that has the same endian form) would give most of the benefit of a merger without having to do all the hard work. Once OS X was a Sun supported platform, the collaboration on apps would be inevitable.

2003-01-17 12:45:02
If apple bought sun...
Apple would destroy Sun or Sun would destroy apple. I put my money on apple taking control. Assimilating the employees and techologies killing sparc and going PPC, getting rid of solaris and essentially integrating sun into apples corporate culture. Although I see SGI as the right purchase, gain some technology, alias wavefront, and a name that allows them to compete in the high end space at a very low price no less.
2003-01-17 13:09:01
Deja Vu in Reverse
I got a big kick out of reading this, and the various comments. It truly is 1996 in reverse, and the funny thing is, I had already thinking along these lines for a few weeks when I saw Steve's article.

I don't think it will happen either, but I really do wish they'd work together more closely (and vigorously) to keep Apple's Java implementation current. I've already got a project at work I can't run on my Mac because it depends on some 1.4 functionality. And I'd rather work in Java than Objective C or other less type-safe and memory managed languages.

The companies could leverage each others' strengths far better than they currently do, even without a merger, and a merger would create some weird redundancies and incompatibilities. Let's hope for a serious and effective partnership.

2003-01-17 14:25:12
Oh please... NO!
They are so totally different companies. And Sun, regardless of McNealy and the Java effort, is starting to flag seriously. They don't know if they're a hardware game or a software game. They don't have the intelligence to be services company, and they're definitely NOT artists. Linux is, also, eating them up - and they're weak in the supercomputing market.

Apple's got it's game where it is. A language isn't a reason to merge - they're as close as they ever should be.

2003-01-18 07:06:21
Java 3D?
This doesn't seem very likely to me, considering that Apple and Sun cannot even seem to work out a deal for Apple to bundle Java 3D into it OS X.

2003-01-18 09:15:50
Apple-SGI merger would make more sense
Apple and Sun...i think not.
Particularly at this junction in time when Sun is making a huge loss.

SGI is a small company and like Apple has a very loyal user base and with similar markets in media - though in the high end.

In addition at only a market cap. of $250 million it makes a valuable investment for Apple.

The cross platform nature of Mac OS X would allow SGI/Apple to port and run Mac OS X on both the MIPS platforms if need be and the Intel Itanium platforms.

Thereby allowing SGI to produce high performance Mac OS X servers and superclusters:

We're not talking about Xserve calibre machines but a level higher. The advantage for Apple would be to get high end SGI apps ported over to Mac OS X.

SGI could also produce high end Mac OS X visualisation systems and workstations.

Basically SGI and Apple together could help grow and reinforce each other's markets.

Timing is good for both companies as Apple has pretty much completed its transition to Mac OS X and SGI has begun (i.e not too far down the path to) its transition to Itanium/Linux.

2003-01-18 10:19:02
No way
I think this would be a bad idea all around. It's better to have two independent players out there. While Apple seems to hold it's own, albeit small market share, Sun's prospects are more up in the air. Linux have made huge inroads into the server market, and Microsoft's cannibalization of Java cannot be undone. My prediction is that Sun will soon be a marginal player so why should Apple be interested in a merger?
2003-01-18 11:29:22
Sony might make a better fit...
I'm not sure any merger makes sense, but if Apple needed deeper pockets Sony would seem to make the best fit:

1. Great brand - a premium brand
2. Strong worldwide distribution
3. Tremendous consumer focus
4. A tradition of innovating
5. Excellent design & engineering

Sound familiar - very similar to Apple, eh? Would mean they share values...

Biggest problem - the music content 'albatross' that might not let Apple take an independent stance on DRM.

No offense, but I think Sun is on a downward spiral. They were well positioned for the Internet boom but I don't see what will help them avoid the relentless drive toward commoditization of hardware. They are a niche player.

So is Apple, of course, but two minnows won't make a shark.

2003-01-18 13:14:14
Makes no sense
* Java?

Merging Apple and Sun isn't going to make Java more popular. Apple already ships Java, and offers a great Cocoa-Java bridge that allows developers to write great native Mac OS X apps in Java... and no one uses it. For a while, Java was going to be Apple's message instead of ObjectiveC, and guess what? More developers chose ObjectiveC.

* StarOffice?

Apple doesn't need Sun to distribute an Office suite. Apple has an Office suite, and is clearly overhauling it one component at a time. Similarly, Sun isn't going to buy Apple just to be a distribution channel for a single product.

* Enterprise?

This is the only one that makes even a tiny ammount of sense. Apple could buy Sun for its experience with supporting a Unix enterprise market. Apple could sure use the talent here. But corporate pride in both companies would doom this. Sun techies would never give up Solaris. Sun's hardware group would get sacked wholesale. And Sun's customers might not be too happy about being told to switch to Mac OS X, or else. In short, they both sell the same conceptual solutions to enterprise, but you can't actually merge their products here without eliminating one of them.

2003-01-18 22:41:37
Mac OS X does not use FreeBSD kernel
You state that "Mac OS X is based on an open source FreeBSD kernel", which is not correct. It uses Mach microkernel, BSD is implemented as a layer on top of the Mach kernel.
2003-01-19 15:14:35
Apple-Nintendo Makes More Sense explains it all
2003-01-20 09:48:48
What a waste of space
Is there even a point to posting such speculation? A merger between any two tech firms is not just about technology. It's about business.

Since when do techies have the understanding of M&A mechanics to speculate about an Apple-Sun merger (or acquisition of one by the other)? Does the deal make financial sense?

Or is this another one of those articles designed to evoke mindless us vs. them chatter (a la the ubiquitous J2EE vs. .NET mouth-offs)?

2003-01-27 07:32:55
Actually a Sun-Bea Merger is more plausible.
If you consider the fact that Sun's iPlanet App Server is the worst piece of software invented by mankind, and Sun's recent initiative to become a software rather than a hardware company, it could be very attractive from the market's POV that that Sun and Bea merge or Sun buys out Bea. The reasons are the following
1. Sun for the first time will have a world class Application Server to go with it very well made Netbeans platform/IDE. (We developers will love it)
2. Bea's Weblogic was getting kicked around by IBM and Oracle and even Macromedia's server products recently.
3. The customer when he buys a Solaris 9, gets a Weblogic7.0, Bea's System Integration addons and possibly the latest version of Sun One Studio Enterprise Edition.

I can think of many more.

2003-01-27 14:14:02
It makes no sense...
Companies, tech or not, merger because they believe such marriage will be good for their business. Pardon the overused word, but there must be, at least at some minimal level, a degree of business SYNERGY between the two companies to warrant any sort of partnership.

That said, the vertical hardware business model --the only real business thread linking these two companies these days -- appears to be doomed in the long run (due to open source Linux, standards centered on cheaper Intel based systems, the eternal competition from Microsoft, etc...).

Any merger of these companies would offer very little to enhance either company's business proposition. The challenge for Sun and Apple is to find a way to free themselves from the vertical business model without totally destroying the company in the process.

Merging the two firms doesn't seem to offer an answer. It could be great for commiseration purposes, but terrible for business.

2003-01-28 14:25:35
both have proprietary O/S and hardware, is a perfect fit!!
2003-10-27 11:44:03
Sun not shining on Silicon Valley
Sun is going to go bankrupt. It is unfortunate but inevitable. Whatever is left of Sun after bankruptcy court proceedings, it is up to Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and the likes to bid. Vultures will feed on the dead.

Scott McNealy will disappear in thin air, just like Sadam Hussein and Ossama bin Laden. All Sun technies will forever have question floating in remote chat rooms: "Whatever happened to Mr. Scott McNealy?"