LinuxWorld Insider, Part 2: Sun's Linux Strategy

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Besides the presence of Microsoft at the recent LinuxWorld Expo, the

most unexpected sight was that of Sun Microsystem's Chairman Scot

McNealy actually working his own booth. As described by a Sun product

manager, "this just shows how committed we are to Linux as a strategic

platform." When I then asked to have that strategy explained I received

a message that can best be described as inconsistent.

Sun is attacking the market on the desktop with a new version of

StarOffice, operating systems components with an excellent port of Gnome

tools, and developers with a new LAMP bundle (Linux, Apache, MySQL and

PHP). Yes, Sun does have a significant commitment to Linux ... but is it

the right solution set? The jury will remain out for some time to come.

I have to believe that the potential erosion Linux represents to its

Solaris and proprietary hardware sales motivates Sun's efforts. The Sun

logic is by embracing open source developers and administrators with Sun

labeled Linux solutions, this will some how translate to larger system

Solaris enterprise sales. This logic could be seriously flawed and could

backfire if not properly executed. Two cases in point are StarOffice and

LAMP.

The latest version of StarOffice is vastly improved but is still playing

catch up with Microsoft Office XP. The sea change that a very low priced

alternative to Office will transform desktops does not appear to be

taking place. The company realizes virtually no economic benefit from

this office suite, but it does have bragging rights for the

anti-Microsoft crowd. Is this a justified strategy?

The LAMP initiative offers an environment for small applications. It is

interesting to note that Sun is now positioning this bundle as

entry-level environment and Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) for complex

and distributed application. The two environments are largely discrete

and interoperability could be a real issue. While Linux developers might

eagerly use the open source LAMP bundle, the lack of a clearly defined

road map to J2EE will hurt application integration.

Sun Solaris is industrial strength UNIX at its best. The recent

initiatives seem to pull attention away from Sun's core strengths. No

high tech company can afford to lose sight of its core. Keep you eye on

Sun as this story evolves.

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