Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz has blunted whatever public niceties existed between his company and Microsoft with a revealing attack on Redmond's lawsuit threats around open source software. In his post, Schwartz recounts struggles to deal with defectors from Sun's Solaris operating system to the open source Linux. " …
The Three ways to Beat Competition
Schwartz is peg-on the mark with his response. He also illustrates two of the three pillars companies can use to beat back competitors:
You can litigate them, either directly (SCO/MS threat to open source) or indirectly (RIAA suing customers to stop piracy caused by third-party products);
You can legislate them by getting onerous laws passed that favor your product/company over others (NAB petitioning US Congress to prevent the merger of Sirius and XM satellite radio - even though terrestrial radio is either dying or merging into an oligopoly rivaling the satellite services);
Or, you can continue to provide meaningful solutions that get the customer to favor your product over a competitors. This includes mergers and acquisitions to strengthen your customer relationship through additional products and services.
The only problem with the last is that even the best companies can make mistakes innovating, and, unlike the first two choices, there is no "partial benefit" from either scaring off customers from other solutions (even if litigation fails in most cases) or from getting some favorable treatment from legislators (and costing competitors some large chunks of change to pay THEIR bribes). Unless you can leverage the IP you generated in a failed R&D effort to litigate against others...
(A point on the latter: most people don't realize that, in addition to patents for innovations, most large companies insist their inventors patent FAILURES as well. This allows the original company to sue a competitor that succeeds where they failed - and prevents a possibly better solution from replacing the lame-ass one they chose to pursue. See the litigation between RCA and Philo Farnsworth over raster-scan television that ran for decades as RCA tried to protect a clearly inferior rotating disc television system.)
Mr. Schwartz needs to be congratulated for his poignant rejoinder to Microsoft, and Mr. Vance should be given free drinks for life for bringing this to our attention in small words us management types can understand.
Microsoft's real problem revealed
As Jonathan states: "Remember, they wouldn't be motivated unless your products were somehow missing the mark."
That's the long and short of MS thrashing and posturing. I knew Vista was to be a train wreck before it left the "platform." Even as a MS Partner, I ignored Vista and instead started evaluating Linux. Now, I am about a third of the way through conversion to OSS and Linux/GPL software.
This decision was not based entirely upon cost, but that was a contributor. The WGA fiasco and licensing were real issues as well. But the real motive was to jump off of the whole MS juggernaut as it was heading in the wrong direction. I have never understood why each and every MS OS release increases the resource requirements while returning so little in increased functionality. I have also added the criterion that the OS should respond to the user and not the other way around.
I have Solaris Express running in a VM on the Fedora Core 6 lappy. It's responsive and the developer tools are quite competent. But it looks old and clunky compared to the Linux distros I have assessed. For a few "flashback" moments, the X Windows installation looked frighteningly old school with the old color palettes and desktop with boxed thick-border windows. Things settled down when we booted into the installation and Gnome came up instead.
I think that the best course for Sun is to concentrate their limited resources on their best capabilities and protected IP in order to offer software for Linux in the server market. Although, I am not sure how this can fly with the impending release of GPLv3...
Getting on with modern Open Source even with GPLv3...
Whether GPLv3 destroys or helps the open source market of software is up to the destiny of us Linux/BSD/Solaris Users (also implying those doing the deciding.) Everyone who's keeping up with this type of news knows who's casting their opinionated vote: Linus Torvalds himself being among them, being a negative one.
Hopefully modern Linux don't take the downside turn that ol' Apple, Microsoft and others are hoping for, which would be in their own gain! Now that is something most of us fans don't want!
Of course, those reading should realize that Linux supporters have been around since the early 90's, while proprietary OS supporters have been around since the 1960's! While I believe this has no impact on the position of Linux in the current world, it does make evident that there is a great deal more of growth left for this emerging platform: that is Open Source operating systems!
The commenter to Schwartz's blog is ignorant
He says of Sun: "you simply didn't have the cash to do anything else".
Prior to Sun's CASH acquisition of StorageTek in 2005, Sun had over $7 billion (that's Billion, with a "B") in cash and short-term investments on its balance sheet. Sun was also cash-flow positive, despite operating at a GAAP loss. To understand this dichotomy, one only has to understand the concept of depreciation of acquisition related goodwill and depreciation of real-estate (Sun owns most of major R&D facilities).
In 2005, Sun could easily afford to sue anyone it wanted to. As I recall, it was suing Microsoft at the time, and Microsoft was one of the largest companies in the world.
As for Mr. Schwartz not growing Sun, Sun's stock has increased about 25% since Schwartz took over as CEO.
Disclaimer: I do not work for Sun Microsystems