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The Economist: Sun and IBM, Stealing each other's clothes

Oct 17, 2001, 06:14 (36 Talkback[s])

[ Thanks to Henry Story for this link. ]

"...As the world's leading server vendor, Sun is not in any immediate danger. Even as NT and Linux become more popular, its Solaris franchise will continue to be hugely lucrative; although its share of the market may fall, revenues should continue to rise. But there are some contradictions in Sun's strategy, and in its attitude towards Linux in particular. On the one hand, Linux is a convenient stick with which to beat Microsoft, Sun's arch-rival in software. On the other, as the leading Unix vendor, Sun has the most to lose if Linux becomes the standard server operating system, from low-end boxes to mainframes, as IBM expects.

Simon Phipps, Sun's “chief technology evangelist†(yes, really), insists that Sun loves Linux, and that IBM's embrace of Linux is merely marketing camouflage to divert attention from its many incompatible product lines. But while Sun supports Linux in a number of ways, its desire to protect Solaris means that its support is half-hearted. This does not sit well with Sun's attempt to present itself as a champion of open standards. Nor does Sun's insistence on using its own processor chips, while the rest of the industry moves towards Intel's new Itanium chips. By remaining wedded to Solaris and UltraSPARC, Sun appears to be taking the same proprietary route that other computer makers, such as Silicon Graphics and Apple, have already followed into obscurity.

None of this presents an immediate problem. Sun may be losing money at the moment, but it still has plenty of cash. Moreover, Linux is still some years away from being a match for Solaris in high-end Unix servers. But eventually it will be. At that point Sun will have to work out how to square the circle of championing open standards without destroying its competitive advantage."

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