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Eric Bruno

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Where's Jonathan?

August 11, 2008

Have you noticed how quiet Sun has been? Jonathan, Sun's CEO, had a knack for flare when he first became CEO. He seemed to be in the news often, such as with his blog (the first for a high-profile CEO), when he pushed for web-based reporting of financials to level the playing field for investors, and how he kicked off much of Sun's open-source initiatives including its crown jewels, Java.

However, the frequency of Jonathan's blog entries has decreased, and his news-making statements have also. On the surface, one might think it's due to Sun's recent economic struggles, as it announced a loss in its fiscal Q3, and a missed target of 8% margins for the year, even after returning to profitability in Q4. I disagree. I think it's due to something different; he's preparing for something big.


I suspect Sun is preparing to make a statement about how it's going to return to financial performance similar to that it saw during the .com bubble of the late '90s. Sun is preparing a strategy for growth the likes of which it hasn't seen since its early days. Sun is preparing to put the finishing touches on its software strategy.


This would be a key move for Sun; finally breaking out its software sales from its overall revenues, and announcing its plans for growth in that area. The writing is on the wall, with all of the software-related moves and acquisitions since Jonathan took over. And as Bill Gates or even Steve Jobs would be quick to tell you, "It's the software, stupid!" that results in extreme growth. 


For example, where would Apple's (albeit cool) Mac hardware be without its tightly integrated software? An iPhone without its applications (and now the App Store) is just another touch-screen feature phone. And Microsoft never even had to manufacture any hardware to achieve its domination.


Sun has open-sourced its application server (Glassfish), messaging suite, enterprise service bus (Open ESB), enterprise operating system (OpenSolaris), and Java SE and Java ME (OpenJDK and Phone ME, respectively), amongst some others. They've acquired MySQL and innotek's VirtualBox, and recently announced open-source products around SIP (SailFin with Ericsson), and Open SSO. And don't forget the enormous effort it's putting behind Java FX Script, Java FX Mobile, and Java FX TV technology (one can only hope that some sort of agreement is made here with Google to marry Java FX and Android into a giant mobile solution).


Yes, I'm convinced Sun is putting the finishing touches on its software strategy, its associated software catalog, and the software-related services that go with it. And once Sun discloses exactly how much software is worth to them today, and how it will increase in the future, Sun will return to skyrocketing growth beyond levels of the past. All of this is good for Java developers riding on its coat tails.


Happy coding!


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