In essence, technology analysts and customers say, there are two Suns: One is the financially stressed company that depended excessively on Unix servers, became bloated on dot-com sales, hired more workers than it needed and, admittedly, signed too many expensive real-estate leases. The other is the technological innovator–known for spawning networked computing and Java–that is driving the latest industry advances in hardware architectures and on-demand systems.
If the Sun of old is fading into the distance, what will the new Sun look like? Perhaps the answer can be gleaned from another large computer company that was once thought to be headed for extinction: IBM.
When sales of Big Blue’s proprietary mainframe and minicomputer systems began to tank around 1993, the company poured its resources into services–rather than products–that would help customers do business. A decade later, the IBM Global Services brand is an industry powerhouse.
With its N1 initiative, Sun wants to gradually move away from being a pieces-parts supplier and become essentially a giant systems integrator–a middleman role that makes disparate hardware and software work together, regardless of brand. Sun argues that it can better manage internal systems and reduce the artificial switching costs that have dominated technologies for years, Greg Papadopoulos, Sun’s chief technology officer, said in an interview with CNET News.com.
In the process, Sun will reach into a deep stockpile of technologies that it has developed for years and finally turn them into commercially viable products. Some of its inventions, such as Jini–Java-based software for linking devices over a network–and related technology Jxta have languished as Sun struggled to devise a market strategy for them.
Adds K@W: “Its reliance on big, powerful machines is holding Sun back against other competitors as the industry moves to using more microprocessors, according to Wharton faculty and analysts.” The article has opinions from a wide cross-section of people.