Now, Sun, which was founded in 1982, might go away via the acquisition route similar to other once-promising technology companies such as BEA Systems, Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft, and Tandem. The list of acquired technology companies certainly is a long one.
How Sun got to this point can be debated. Undoubtedly, many factors come into play. But it seems clear that to an extent, a company that has billed itself as the flyer of the open systems flag has been hit hard by anchoring itself to technologies now viewed as proprietary. Or, they are at least viewed as Sun-dominated technologies even if others can use them.
While also offering systems running AMD or Intel chips, Sun's bread-and-butter chip platform has been SPARC RISC. Meanwhile, Intel has established itself as the de facto chip architecture of sorts, supported by software platforms such as Microsoft Windows and PC giant Dell. (For those of you who don't remember what RISC stands for, and it's been a while since it mattered much, it’s Reduced Instruction Set Computer.)
On the OS side, Sun has always been a Unix vendor. But like the ice man at the advent of the refrigerator, Sun cast its lots on Solaris in the early 1990s, and afterward Linux grew and grew.
A criticism Sun has endured was that it has been unable to make money from the Java technology it invented. A Sun official recently told me, though, that Java revenues have gone up since the November 2006 move to offer Sun's Java implementation via open source.
(Sun's focus on open sourcing its software has caused consternation, with a former vice president saying in 2007 that it was one reason he left the company. The official, Larry Singer, felt the company should have been more focused on generating revenues.)
Also a problem for Sun, as CEO Jonathan Schwartz acknowledged in a recent blog, is customers who are themselves struggling. "I am routinely talking to customers now partially owned by governments, whose share prices have declined 95 percent or more, whose balance sheets and basic business models are under extraordinary duress. Like every business, our health is a derivative of our customers', and to that end, we've got our challenges -- sure, innovation loves a crisis, but only after customers have stepped out from under their desks," Schwartz wrote.
Meanwhile, Sun keeps plugging away as if we're not supposed to notice the Sun-IBM reports. The company recently made its splash into the cloud computing space and is promoting Solaris for Intel's Nehalem chip.
The next chapter in this saga will be actually reporting on what happens with Sun and what kind of independence, if any, IBM will let Sun maintain. Or, this whole drama could end up with nothing happening at all.
We'll just have to stay tuned.
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