Sure, now that the deed is done and the board has approved the acquisition, there’s lots of Monday morning quarterbacks.  However, in this case, I’m not one of them.  Indeed, I point to the release of my 9/1997 report that I wrote for NC.Focus entitled “State of Java Report: IBM” and the subsequent press release where I assert that IBM is leading in deploying Java in the Enterprise.

The story goes somewhat like this.  On the day I released the report, I subsequently released the press release through PR Newswire, but it was also available on the IBM website.  Within hours of posting the press release, IBM was contacted by Sun and told to remove the link to the press release on their website.  Ultimately, Sun did not like the fact that I presented that IBM was doing a better job of monetizing Java in the Enterprise than Sun was, but that was the truth.

Now, Sun had some great hardware solutions; especially in storage, so not monetizing Java was not the only cause for their downfall, but I believe it was a primary cause for Sun’s eventual demise.  My example is just one of my many interactions with Sun during my time as an analyst that demonstrated to me that Sun’s arrogance regarding their inability to understand how to monetize Java.  I worked closely with Sun’s development tools group, who had a series of failed attempts getting businesses to adopt their development tools.  This is in contrast to IBM, who’s WebSphere tools are spreading like a bad virus through the industry.

I believe had Sun been less arrogant and more open to seeking ways to better monetize Java, they’d still be a viable going concern today.

3 thoughts on “Sun Was Too Arrogant To Survive”
  1. You hit the nail right on the head. I realized this years ago that it was going to become a problem. It was verified when I talked to some people who had worked for SUN in the past as well.

    It’s sad to see with such promise that SUN is effectively closing doors. I don’t think IBM acquiring SUN would have been good for Java, but it really shouldn’t have happened at all. At the end of the day, we all get a paycheck.

    I see this attitude of blatant stupidity more frequently than I’d like to admit. Do you see similar issues in other companies?

    1. I may not like IBM’s tools. I think they are big, bulky and do a lot of little things so-so, versus doing one thing really well. That said, they have done a marvelous job of monetizing Java. Oracle does not need to monetize Java to succeed, but if they can do that on top of their database platform, they will be a force to be reckoned with (not that they aren’t already). To date, Oracle’s attempts at monetizing Java have failed miserably, and they ended up acquiring the companies that kicked their butt in those categories. There’s still a lot of people that don’t like their SOA platform and I’m not a fan myself.

      As an analyst, it’s remarkable how many vendors believe they “have it under control” and “they know better”. Most of the vendors I got that message from back in ’96-’99 are now either defunct or acquired. The vendors that seek out many different views (customers, potential customers, analysts, etc.) tend to avoid problematic traps of arrogance.

  2. Ha, exactly, you said it. Having had the opportunity to work as a SUN partner for some 3 years since the acquisition of a former EAI player, i’ve been amazed again and again by SUN’s attitude. Have gained a lot of grey hair working with both the most smart and most stupid company at the same time, and indeed, the main weak point was the pervading arrogance. Every single aspect in the organisation seemed to be subject to an unfounded compulsive belief in the intellectual superiority of whatever SUN might shine it’s light upon.. something apparently gathered during the internet booming years and fostered thereafter by McNealy, who should have stepped aside completely when Schwartz took over, but continued to travel the world visiting local offices and clients… The SUN that grew during the 80’s and early 90’s because of it’s openness and close cooperation with partners, became subject to politics, nepotism and silly transparant games when they started to equate a market’s success with their own. Eventhough SUN has some amazing software hungry for attention, such as the re-invented SOA platform, which i hope Oracle will pick up on all of this unharvested goldmine, as a business ‘organism’ it went down because of arrogance and indifference. SUN, pervaded with what mostly resembles , managed to either over-analyze or over-simplify beyond insult practically every software/service project i’ve been trying to help out with in the last few years.. ranging from misspelling a person’s name, the “know it better” pre-sales consultants, and the “under control” managers who spend all their time running after issues and doing work which at normal companies is done by the consultants, from not reading people’s resume and “assuming” they know someone’s background.. Amazing.. if someone had told me 12 years ago when i choose to work in IT things would be like this..

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