Taken together with Sun's decision to open-source Java in November 2006 and the agreement, last month, to offer Intel systems, Sun is demonstrating a resolve and then resignation that have allowed the company to survive other existential challenges, such as the 1993 decision to accommodate the Motif user interface after remaining steadfast in support of its own Open Look graphical interface.
"Open-source software has a compelling advantage because the potential customers know there's a difference in openness with open software [as opposed to] any kind of closed software," Bechtolsheim said. Berkeley Unix, used in the original Sun workstations, was essentially the industry's first open-source OS, he said. Besides, Bechtolsheim says, there is money to be made in open source through selling support and through sales of the company's hardware.
At GM, Sun may not be a presence on the desktop, but it's still a significant presence in the data center, where Sun servers run back-end applications," said Killeen.
Sun software ranging from Solaris to the Sun Java Enterprise System also populates GM. Sun, Killeen said, noting that Sun has been a very good partner for a long time.
As Sun moves forward, it continues to face obstacles.
And Sun is maintaining an independent streak as one of the few large vendors not participating in the Eclipse Foundation for open-source tooling and instead promotes its own rival NetBeans initiative.
While smaller than IBM and less influential than Microsoft, Sun, with its talented arsenal of technologists like Java founder James Gosling, remains a potent force. Just as the company once battled Apollo, Sun can be counted on as a prominent counterpoint to what its rivals are doing, even while Sun cooperates with its opponents when deemed practical.