February 16, 2004

Open letter to Sun: Let Java Go

The open-source community has been hearing reports that you have recently said of Sun Microsystem's strategy "The open-source model is our friend".
We're glad to hear that, and Sun's support of OpenOffice.org certainly puts some weight behind the claim. But that support is curiously inconsistent,
spotty in ways which suggests that Sun is confused in the way it thinks about and executes its open-source strategy.

That confusion is evident in another of your quotes. Many of us think you are right on when you say that "Sun [...] is less threatened by a
zero-revenue model for software than just about anybody out there." We agree that the potential for you in using open-source software as a value
multiplier for Sun's hardware business is huge. This wouldn't even be a novel move for Sun; your release of the NFS standards in 1984 was possibly the
single most successful market-shaping maneuver in your company's history, and we'd love to help you repeat it.

But the casual equation between "open source" and "zero revenue" suggests that on another level you don't really know what you're talking about. Open
source is hardly a zero-revenue model; ask Red Hat, which had a share price over triple Sun's when I just checked. Or ask IBM, which is using Linux as
a lever to build a huge systems-integration business in markets like financial services that Sun has historically owned.

It doesn't have to be this way. If Sun were prepared to go all the way with open source it could seize back its position of industry leadership. Sun
is one of a small handful of companies that would both have the smarts and the street cred to do even better than IBM has from a full-fledged alliance
with the open-source community. Indeed, on historical grounds you might do better; many of the senior people in the movement are old-time Unix hackers
who remember that Sun was founded by geeks like us at a time when IBM was the Great Satan.

Link: catb.org


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