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From: "Inker, Evan"
Subject: [hangout] ESR: After Sun Goes Out
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 2003 19:39:53 +0100
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ESR: After Sun Goes Out
Oct 2, 2003, 14 :00 UTC (19 Talkback[s]) (6747 reads)
(Other stories by Eric S. Raymond)
By Eric S. Raymond
President, Open Source Initiative
Sun Microsystems crossed the line from "troubled" to "doomed" yesterday.
This is sad news for the open-source community, and we need to think about
how we're going to deal with it. The most pressing questions are "What
becomes of Java?" and "What becomes of OpenOffice.org?" These are questions
Sun's troubles have been mounting for a while. Founder Bill Joy's departure
was an ominous recent symbol, but the substance of their problem is that
their huge-margin server business is being eroded from the low end by PCs
running Linux at a rate that doesn't leave it much of a future.
Nobody should cheer the prospect of Sun's demise. Sun screwed up some major
decisions very badly, from wrecking Unix standardization efforts in the
1980s to throttling the dream of Java ubiquity by keeping the language
proprietary. But nobody should forget that Sun was founded by Unix hackers
for Unix hackers. For most of its lifespan Sun remained the archetype of an
engineering-driven company. Sun was, mostly, among the good guys; to hackers
and geeks, disputing with Sun was almost a family quarrel.
But inside Sun, I hear that talent is bailing out of the company because
they just don't believe the Solaris-will-prevail story management is
peddling. Most of Sun's techies are running Linux on their PCs at home. They
can see the handwriting on the wall.
In retrospect, the recent pronunciamento that Sun has no Linux strategy was
their final admission of failure. Sun can't run at the lean profit margins
that are all a commoditized Linux server market will support, their cost
structure is all wrong for it. They got trapped in a classic innovator's
dilemma and didn't cannibalize their own business while they had the
investor confidence and maneuvering room to do so. Cuddling up to SCO didn't
And now it's too late. Moody's has just about dropped Sun into the junk-bond
basement. The stock closed at $3.31, 15% off for the day and falling in
heavy trading. The recent product announcements have been duds, and the
upcoming quarterlies are going to be a disaster. Wall street analysts are
calling for drastic job cuts and speaking the code phrases that mean "run
for the hills!" The smell of death is in the air.
Any of Sun's people and tangible assets that don't scatter to the four winds
will probably wind up in the hands of IBM, HP, and Dell--three companies
that have shown they do know how to play the commodity-computing game. The
SCO lawsuit probably won't be affected. Sun was the lesser-known of of SCO's
sugar daddies along with Microsoft, but Redmond can pick up Sun's share of
funding the lawsuit out of petty cash--and it undoubtedly will.
The real question is two-fold: can OpenOffice.org survive without Sun and
where will Java land? Probably not at Microsoft; with C# in the picture, it
is unlikely that Microsoft even wants to own Java any more. I have to guess
that IBM is the most likely to shoulder both technologies, simply because
nobody else is really positioned to do it. But that, of course, raises other
worries--is it really good for us if IBM has a lead position in everything?
Reuters: Sun Shares Tumble, Wall St Seeks Deeper Cost Cuts(Oct 01, 2003)
NewsForge: What Sun Needs To Do Now to Survive(Sep 30, 2003)
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