Is Sun Rising or Setting?

by Ron Hitchens

Related link: http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20030213.html



Robert Cringely's column this week (2/13/2003) has some very interesting things to say about the future of Sun Microsystems.



Only time will tell if Cringely's hunches prove correct, but his thinking echoes my own thoughts about where Sun is headed. I think they're in for some bumpy times ahead. The next couple of years should be interesting times indeed for Sun, Solaris and Java.


11 Comments

anonymous2
2003-02-13 17:09:10
Typical FUD
This article by Robert X. Cringely is another typical FUD I'm getting tired of reading every year thoughout almost the entire history of Sun. For some reason IT media wanted Sun dead almost from its inception first promissing that NT will render Solaris irrelevant then with Itanium killing SPARC and so forth. Nevertheless Sun has been the only company that increased it market share in the Unix market last year and Itanium is still going nowhere fast. Likes of Cringely who obviously do not live in the trenches of the IT industry judge the state of one company or another by each other's FUD not realizing what is going on the real world. Sun is very much alive and IS a technological leader contrary to very unobjective and opinionated comments of Robert Cringely. Contrary to Cringely's FUD Java is yet to realize its full potential on both client and server side since only now Java is really starting to deliver on its promises. Adoption of Java is growing with more and more applications springing up all over. A good indicator of Java's adoption is the fact is that the Open Source Community is embracing Java -- look at Tomcat, NetBeans, OpenCMS, Struts, JEdit, etc. (the list goes on)...
anonymous2
2003-02-13 18:12:28
Not quite...
I hate to point out the obvious, but Apple increased their share of the UNIX market more than anyone last year.
sergeiv
2003-02-13 18:30:44
Not quite...
Apple might have increased its share on the desktop but obviously not in the enterprise which is really the focal point of Sun's business and pretty much any other Unix vendor.
anonymous2
2003-02-16 10:33:57
Typical FUD
Unfortunatly, this time it is not just predictions of doom. This time it's not a possibility but a fact that:


1. Sun is losing money at an incredible rate.
2. The only reason that Suns "UNIX" market share is growing is because the total UNIX server market is shrinking rapidly. Sun is just losing at a slower rate than the others. The Linux server market is growing but not as fast as the UNIX server market is shrinking.
3. Java, for all it's sucess is not making Sun any money.


Technical leadership is great but is no substitute for profits. I'd even argue that Sun is currently not leading in hardware technology, which is the only area that has EVER made them money.

sergeiv
2003-02-17 19:19:43
Typical FUD
In reply to the previous post:


1. Yes, Sun is currently loosing money, but that doesn't mean that it is going to crash and burn. The rest of the industry is also loosing money, does that tell you IBM, HP, Cisco and others are also coming down in flames? It just so happens that the state of IT industry is in general decline with no obvious signs of recovery in the near future. It is just Sun receives considerably more publicity than it deserves and gets judged more harshly than others.


2. What do these talks that UNIX market share is RAPIDLY declining are based on? Some popular opinions or may be FUD ingested press releases from Microsoft? I'm yet to see a single meaningful statistic supporting that argument. UNIX might be feeling some pressure on the very low end from Linux, but on the middle to high end UNIX and Sun's Solaris in particular are as strong as ever with no reasonable substitute on the horizon. Sun expanded its UNIX market share not because UNIX market is declining, but becase Sun is feeding on HP's and IBM's lack of visual long-term commitment to their UNIX platforms snatching big ticket customers one by one from above mentioned IBM and HP. Moral is don't confuse popular opinion developed by media with the facts.


3. As for Sun not making money off Java, that is a very moot point. It might be true on the balance sheets but as far as a tool that keeps Sun a technological leader in the eyes of IT industry, it more than payed for itself and I'm sure will bring a dime or two to Sun's coffers in the future.

mentata
2003-02-18 09:15:41
Sun down but not out
I don't think the perspective that Sun is declining is a media play: they have lost big in the industry in the last two years. More than anything, as this article demonstrates, they have lost considerable faith with their previously loyal market. I've been critical myself, but I feel the need to correct the balance.


Sun has many of assets, a large install base, a lot of wealthy customers, and a legacy of innovation. They have the wherewithal to crank out lots of machines, software, and PR. They do unique work, like asynchronous chip design. They also have involvement in a lot of important advances like grid computing, blades, network management, and web services. Java is still a mighty force, and they even do Linux now. Finally, the JCP is becoming friendlier to the open source community.


Sun can turn their outlook around, but I agree with Mr. Cringely that what they need most is attitude adjustment. My advice to them is to stop pissing off their partners and allies. Think commodity hardware. Embrace Linux and open source more authentically. Stop relying on resellers and marketing, but instead make support and services an internal priority. Don't solve all problems with software. Target smaller business for a change and let them stay smaller customers if they choose. Lose the suit and tie, roll up the sleeves, and challenge IBM with grey matter. Be true to better values than those demonstrated by Microsoft (but feel free to steal thinking from .Net). Stop clinging to proprietary dead weight and instead show more faith in future contributions.


Most important: Sun needs to pick its battles and not let ego and history convince them that they can do everything better. They can't, and the crow tastes like cheap stock and vitriol.

ronhitchens
2003-02-18 12:52:27
Sun down but not out
I agree. Rumors of Sun's demise have been greatly exaggerated. I personally believe that Sun will survive and eventually thrive again. But in the short term they're in for some serious pain.


Sun's traditional markets are eroding. If they don't adapt to changing conditions they could perish. I'm sure they're hard at work identifying new markets and crafting new strategies for the future. All companies evolve like this - the striking thing about Sun's case is how fast and how dramatically the tide has turned for them.


I hope they'll gain a little humility from this experience as well. Sun, especially CEO McNealy, needs to stop bad-mouthing Microsoft and others. Sun should let their products and services do the talking.


Sun is a great company loaded with extremely smart people. They'll come out ok. But I expect Sun to be a very different company in three years.

mentata
2003-02-19 08:50:34
trouble at the top
Hear, hear on the badmouthing. Sun executives seem to be the source of their woes, because I know several very smart people that work for the Sun rank-and-file.


Incidentally, does it bother anyone else that Jonathan Schwartz owes the company $5 million? It was granted to him as a low-interest perq loan just before the stock tanked. Hopefully he didn't use that money to exercise options as was common back then. Otherwise, he's held by the short hairs. Perhaps that's why his bad-mouthing seemed the most desperate.

marcf
2003-02-21 00:37:38
New venture?
We all love Sun but I think it is clear it's business proposition is sorely lacking at the moment. Software and services were never strong, Java is not making it any money and they are not selling big iron anymore. So.


Just consider for a while what would happen if Sun and Sony actually went together. I thing I agree with mr. Cringley, this would just be a good thing. In fact, I think domestic IT is going to be the next big thing. What is the worls waiting for, that they can make tomorrow? A flat panel screen, and a remote control, a wireless mouse, a wireless keyboard and a PDA to operate it with. Killer.


Just hope they wont call it sunny.

sergeiv
2003-02-23 03:12:56
New venture?
In reply to "they are not selling big iron anymore" comment. That's gotta be some pretty damn good crack you're smoking there, man. Never heard of Sun Fire 15K with 106 UltraSPARC processors and 1/2TB of memory? That's pretty big iron to me... May be it would be nice to know Sun's products before making such far-fetched comments.
marcf
2003-02-28 01:21:09
New venture?
Erm, I did not say they aren't *making* big iron. What I said was, they aren't selling it. Not like they used to, anyway.