Sun, Linux and the Desktop

Sun aiming new line at several targets — including Microsoft, writes Dan Gillmor:

By many reckonings, no major technology company is more threatened by the free software operating system than Sun itself, because what had been low-end, Intel-based Linux computers are moving steadily up the computing food chain as computing power grows.

Sun’s bow to that reality has taken several forms, including low-cost server computers based on the company’s own Sparc microprocessors and Solaris operating system. More recently, Sun bought a Silicon Valley company that was selling cheap servers running Linux. And this week, it introduced a new line of Intel-based servers running Linux.

Sun is aiming at several targets with this line. One, of course, is Microsoft’s server operating systems. Another is Dell Computer, which primarily sells hardware running Windows and has pushed hard into the server marketplace.

Now it looks like Sun is planning a move even further down-market — well beyond installing Linux on some desktop computers inside the company.

What are Sun’s competitive advantages in such a market? Well, it already knows hardware, though as McNealy noted, Sun, like other companies selling Intel-compatible computers, buys assembled machines from Asian contract manufacturers.

Sun also has a soup-to-nuts software offering for customers who are looking for technology that handles basic office chores such as word processing, e-mail, Web browsing and number-crunching. Maybe the operating system would be Solaris, maybe Linux, maybe a choice as with the new server machines.

Interesting strategies from Sun, but I don’t think they have an option. Actually, Sun should be focusing on the Rest of the World with Linux and its hardware expertise (think Thin Clients), but they still want to try and win the market closest to (their) home.

In fact, we should perhaps look at ideas from Sun and Apple as we focus on the TC-TS solution. Both bundle hardware and software. That is what we will probably need to do. The debate within me goes on!

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.