"...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 â€œchief technology
evangelistâ€ (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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