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May 1, 2006—Scott McNealy is out. Jonathan Schwartz is in. And the future never looked brighter for Sun Microsystems—or so we're told. But if Sun's new CEO is going to convince me that his company can remain a dominant player in enterprise software, first he's going to have to get his story straight, particularly when it comes to Linux and open source.
Sun's been making bold moves lately. Its shift to subscription pricing for its enterprise software suites was, frankly, innovative. The decision to open source its Solaris operating system brought it late to the game, but was welcome nonetheless. On numerous occasions, Sun execs have expressed their intent to eventually open all of the company's software under similar terms (with the likely, albeit baffling, exception of Java).
"I think the core technologies that we've delivered to date have demonstrated an ability to drive growth," Schwartz said during the conference call that announced his new role as CEO. Asked about the possibility of future acquisitions, he said, "We're going to continue to look at companies that could continue to expand the features and functions in Solaris to make it competitive against its principal competitor." Sounds good. After all, Sun's Solaris OS is a top-notch product. Schwartz really had me going there—right up to his next line. "And frankly," he said, "its principal competitor is none other than Microsoft Windows." Huh?! That's like a company that sells nothing but certified, purebred cocker spaniels claiming that the principal competition for its product is a purebred cat. But then, Sun has never been able to own up to the elephant-size mutt in the room. Say what you want about Microsoft's business practices, but at least give Redmond credit for giving up on pretending Linux doesn't exist. If you look at Sun's public statements about Linux over the past few years, you can sum up its competitive strategy in three easy steps:
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