Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ex-Sun CEO Warns Oracle of Death By Open Source

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the everyone's-got-a-narrative dept.

Oracle 408

gearystwatcher writes "Former Sun CEO Scott McNealy talks to The Reg on where things went wrong, and acquisition by Oracle: 'We probably got a little too aggressive near the end and probably open sourced too much and tried too hard to appease the community and tried too hard to share,' McNealy said. 'You gotta take care of your shareholders or you end up very vulnerable like we got. We were a wonderful acquisition — we got stolen for a song at the bottom of the Dow.'"

cancel ×

408 comments

Business vs Open Source (4, Insightful)

xtracto (837672) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485334)

Definitely, if all the valuable assets of your business is in software (Solaris, StarOffice, Java, etc) and you give away such software for free then your business does not make sense at all.

Re:Business vs Open Source (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485374)

Definitely, if all the valuable assets of your business is in software (Solaris, StarOffice, Java, etc) and you give away such software for free then your business does not make sense at all.

Those "valuable assets" of the business are now worth nothing, better free alternatives exist. The part that doesn't make sense is not successfully moving onward to a consultative / training / services based business structure.

Re:Business vs Open Source (4, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485494)

I'd say Java was pretty valuable. Love or hate Java, it's used all over the place.

They just never figured out a way to turn that mass user base into serious profit without losing their users.

Java was one of Sun's biggest problems? (3, Interesting)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485568)

It seemed to me that Java was one of Sun's biggest problems. Sun managed Java badly, and that bad management was very bad public relations.

IBM did well with Java (and other F/OSS software) (5, Interesting)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485868)

IBM's success with Java pretty much proves that it was Sun's management of java rather than Java itself that was the problem. On the same note, IBM's success with Linux pretty much proves that McNealey's whole rant makes little sense.

Re:Java was one of Sun's biggest problems? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485904)

And now they blame it on open-source and sharing.

Re:Business vs Open Source (5, Insightful)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485576)

That is the point. Java is only valuable begause it is given away for free. If Sun (or Oracle now) tried to sell it, it would be nearly worthless.

Re:Business vs Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485616)

That is the point. Java is only valuable begause it is given away for free. If Sun (or Oracle now) tried to sell it, it would be nearly worthless.

The first one is always free.

Re:Business vs Open Source (3, Interesting)

spydum (828400) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485840)

I think this is best demonstrated by BEA/Oracle JRockit. Nobody every bought JRockit as a stand alone replacement for HotSpot. It pretty much only used when packaged with BEA/Oracle Weblogic. Doesn't matter that it had some really cool hooks into Mission Control, and JMX extensions (which java eventually caught up to).

Re:Business vs Open Source (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485506)

Bingo. IT is a service business now. Gerstner saw that in the 1990's. You may have some core products, whether they be software/hardware, and hire people to develop those products, but the money is in services. Sun never stopped being a traditional hardware/business. Interestingly enough it took someone from outside of technology to see that for IBM.

Re:Business vs Open Source (2)

wizbit (122290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485932)

somebody should tell that to Apple, who still seems to be carving out a pretty decent living as a software/hardware company.

selling lots of stuff on iTunes, yes, but making a mint on their hardware, as they always have.

Re:Business vs Open Source (2)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486250)

Apple is not an IT company, and never really has been. Today, they are a consumer electronics company that also makes computers.

Re:Business vs Open Source (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485534)

Can you name a good free cross-plaform office suit? (Openoffice grew out of the opensourced Staroffice.)

Re:Business vs Open Source (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485628)

Can you name a good free cross-plaform office suit? (Openoffice grew out of the opensourced Staroffice.)

docs.google.com

Re:Business vs Open Source (2)

Paul Jakma (2677) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486366)

That answer is correct if your parent meant free as in beer, but incorrect if they meant free as in freedom.

Re:Business vs Open Source (4, Funny)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486084)

Can you name a good free cross-plaform office suit?

From the first hit on "plaform":

Plaform is an integrated and sustainable corrugated cardboard packaging system for fruits and vegetables

While I suppose you could make a suit out of it, I'm not sure why you'd want to...

Re:Business vs Open Source (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485564)

Laying off all their American employees, giving preferences to H1Bs and the horrible, unstable products that resulted had _nothing_ to do with their demise, I'm sure. It's only recently, through their open source efforts, their products have started to recover.

Re:Business vs Open Source (5, Insightful)

xtracto (837672) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485820)

Exactly, and part of the reason the free alternatives exist is because Sun made them free (e.g. Openoffice, or Java open-source friendliness).

What Sun failed to do when open-sourcing their "valuable software assets" was to establish a business plan to go with it. RedHat has a business plan related to go with their open-source Linux distributions; IBM has a business plan to go with their Eclipse open-source software... Sun? even though I like them a lot ... it is true that they were not business sound from a long time.

They had the complete vertical stack (hardware [Sparc], middleware [Java] and software [Solaris] and services [cloud services]) but never really came up with a business plan.

Again, it has been really good for us (the open source community, free software advocates) but it was terrible for the economic viability of the Sun corporation (thus resulting in its end).

Re:Business vs Open Source (1)

wmac (1107843) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485842)

There is open source software for desktop publishing but Microsoft Office still sells good. There is Linux but Windows server is still a cash cow and even .NET and related technologies and software sell for Microsoft. Why not Sun?

Sun's financial performance was always a pain in my heart. I loved (like very much) the company but their financial and management performance was terrible after 2000.

Re:Business vs Open Source (3, Interesting)

PORNorART (1949708) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486270)

"Those "valuable assets" of the business are now worth nothing, better free alternatives exist."

I use and like linux and I'm not trying to bash it but I like Solaris a lot more expecially since Solaris 10. In my tests it was faster and easier to manage for the things I needed to do and had features that helped it be that way before linux was able to catch up and in some areas, even so many years later the catch up features aren't quite there yet in linux.

I'm going to miss OpenSolaris (and still am uncertain about the forks) but Solaris offers a lot of value in the data center.

McNeally admits they made a big misstep when they partnered with AT&T for SRV4 and had to go closed source. He thinks that if Solaris kept with BSD only and didn't spaz on their x86 version there might not have been a Linux.

I think he's right but I also think he might be remembering things a bit incorrectly.

Re:Business vs Open Source (5, Insightful)

mrcaseyj (902945) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485388)

Sun just couldn't compete with Linux and Intel. Open sourcing wasn't the problem. It probably helped, just not enough.

Re:Business vs Open Source (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486004)

Even Intel(in their IA64 division, mostly sold by HP in end-user-product form) is having a hard time competing with linux and intel(in their AMD64 iWhatever/Xeon form, as sold by basically everybody) and Intel's doomed architecture even has the advantage of Intel's incredible manufacturing prowess...

Re:Business vs Open Source (1)

Deviate_X (578495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486012)

Sun just couldn't compete with Linux and Intel. Open sourcing wasn't the problem. It probably helped, just not enough.

It also didn't help that Sun at the height of its super-inflated-stock-price (and P/E) imagined it was leading some kind of epic battle with the Microsoft "empire".

Sun is a Very Bad Digital Citizen. Very Bad. (1, Flamebait)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485400)

Sun should not be charging for their software.

They can make their money on performances and T-Shirts.

Re:Sun is a Very Bad Digital Citizen. Very Bad. (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485794)

Sun should not be charging for their software.

They can make their money on performances and T-Shirts.

Performing training classes, and perform consultative services. Is / was Sun THE place to go to hire a java consultant code monkey? If not, why not? Imagine if Sun as headhunter could have skimmed just one percent of the salary of every java code monkey out there. I would guess the "owners" of a product could pull in perhaps 10% of the total service market without even trying, imagine 10% of all Java code money salaries. Whom better to buy services from, than the folks whom own it?

T-Shirts with stuff written on them, the true meaning of which being "I paid Sun $3K for tests, books, and classes in exchange for a cert claiming to prove I know how to code in Java". That claim might even be true, all the better. Whom better to teach you than the guys whom own it?

There is also an interesting loophole in the GPL and some other licenses that merely makes it required to distribute source when you DISTRIBUTE binaries. You can invent, plan, architect, design, experiment, test, roll out internally anything you want, and SELL TRAINING AND PRERELEASE DOCS AND CONSULTATIVE SERVICES you just can't distribute a binary without releasing the source to the recipients of the binary. Lets say that 20% of the java code monkeys out there would pay 5% of their salary (almost like union dues?) to learn exactly where java is going six months in advance, putting them six months ahead of their non-paying competitors, perhaps on a NDA or perhaps no NDA for even more money.

Re:Sun is a Very Bad Digital Citizen. Very Bad. (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485812)

If they had had a "donation" link, and some "pay what you want" actions, I'm sure they would have survived in this new economic reality.

Re:Sun is a Very Bad Digital Citizen. Very Bad. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34486344)

Flamebait?! This is hilarious.

Re:Business vs Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485428)

IBM is primarily a service company, even if they do charge outrageous prices for their products. Most of their money is from training, consultancy and personnel placement.

Re:Business vs Open Source (2)

kiwix (1810960) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485480)

What you're missing is that those assets become much more valuation after they had been open sourced.

In particular, StarOffice bacame widespread only after it was open source and renamed OpenOffice.

Re:Business vs Open Source (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485682)

Definitely, if all the valuable assets of your business is in software (Solaris, StarOffice, Java, etc) and you give away such software for free then your business does not make sense at all.

Where Sun went wrong was in not having open sourced these earlier. They messed around with Solaris, withdrawing the free (as in beer) x86 version at one point. Uncertainty wasn't exactly giving potential customers the "warm fuzzies" required to invest in Sparc hardware (we were evaluating Solaris on x86 at that time). Java, despite the shortcomings would have been a compelling choice for many apps had it been open source. Finally, StarOffice was never a serious threat to the monopoly until they open sourced it.

Had everything been open sourced 10 years ago, the technology landscape today would be very different. From where I've sat, it's not open sourcing their code but simple bad management that took the company down.

Re:Business vs Open Source (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485960)

Obviously I'm not Sun's ex-CEO; but in watching Sun over time, their problem seemed to be less with OSS and more with a complete lack of any clue as to how OSS fit in with their strategy.

Clearly, you can't run a business with expenses and shareholders and stuff on puppies and altruism; but there are a good number of circumstances where investments in OSS fit within a larger profit-making strategy(generally when your core business is hardware or consulting, or where you are trying to spike a competitor's profitable software business so that they can't use the profits from it to crush you in your profit center).

Sun, on the other hand, kind of tacked back and forth with no clear direction. One day, it'd be "Java will be open, to encourage even more mass adoption, and pricey SPARC gear will be the premiere architecture upon which to run JVMs!" The next day, "Thanks to OpenSolaris, our superior Solaris technology will roxxor your linux, even on commodity intel silicon, thus totally gutting our SPARC line that we were enthusiastic about yesterday!".

It could also be that, when you come right down to it, OSS is mostly a nonissue in Sun's declining fortunes. The moment AMD introduced 64-bit X86 extensions to save themselves from Intel's IA64 squeeze plan, most of the remaining "custom UNIX on fancy architecture" vendors cried out in terror and were slowly suffocated. SGI was gutted and sold, Sun twisted around for a while and was gutted and sold, IBM remains strong in mainframes and consulting; but their x86s are nothing special and POWER is pretty niche(the workstations are dead, some servers still survive).

Had Sun been less OSS friendly, they quite possibly could have wound down their operations into a smallish but profitable legacy/consulting/niche hardware outfit, rather than being sold off; but their real problem(and that of companies in a similar position) seems to have been Intel's massive capacity to fab cheap AMD64 chips on a very aggressive schedule, along with the existence of a "good enough and really cheap, unixlike OS". Even Chipzilla's own precious IA64 has been largely murdered by this development, and that is Intel's own baby...

Sun might have extracted a bit more value had they realized earlier that marketshare may not be worth the price and done some gouging while they still could; but I'm not sure that minor changes vs. OSS could really have saved them...

Re:Business vs Open Source (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486200)

"Thanks to OpenSolaris, our superior Solaris technology will roxxor your linux, even on commodity intel silicon, thus totally gutting our SPARC line that we were enthusiastic about yesterday!".

OpenSolaris and indeed Solaris x86 in general was Sun's attempt to apprehend reality, in which the SPARC is going away. They failed. They went away. We'll see what happens with Oracle.

Blame open-source (3, Insightful)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485342)

Right, the only mistake Sun did was open-source too much. Like all the closed shop were doing wonderfully well too.

Thanks Sun.

Re:Blame open-source (5, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485416)

The mistake they made was that they forgot (or didn't know how) to monetize the open source solutions they had. OpenSolaris was great, Java was great, OpenOffice was great but there was no option to buy support or custom development for those products. The only way was to go with closed Solaris and StarOffice which were quite different products and required IT folks to migrate. Basically they pushed OpenSolaris as a development vehicle for their closed Solaris which made for a bunch of OpenSolaris installs way ahead and more feature-rich (patch-wise) than Solaris, migrating back was a pain (or impossible if you upgraded your ZFS pools), installing Sun software on it was a pain.

If anything I would say they didn't open source enough of their products for it to be a success. OpenSolaris would've been great in a well-marketed product like Nexenta did - take the closed source out of it, allow for the great amount of Linux software to run directly on it and make it easy as Ubuntu. But their stock repositories were crap and hard to find requiring signing up to get keys or stick to the handful of community repos. Their HA and Storage solutions are still the best you can find in the market but again, hard to install on OpenSolaris and not very compatible with other software and systems.

Their hardware was also overpriced which pushed them right out of the market. I can understand the higher pricing on their SPARC products but not for their generic x86 systems.

Re:Blame open-source (4, Interesting)

thomst (1640045) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485712)

The mistake they made was that they forgot (or didn't know how) to monetize the open source solutions they had.

Absolutely wrong.

The mistake McNealy made was in refusing to adapt Sun's business model of selling ridiculously-overpriced proprietary hardware with obscene profit margins in an increasingly-commodotized, increasingly-Intel/AMD CISC-centered marketplace for far longer than was sustainable. It's the classic Wang/DEC/WordPerfect business model error - stick your fingers in your ears, squeeze your eyelids shut, and go "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!" at the top of your voice, and just keep on keepin' on, while the dominant paradigm shifts around you.

Re:Blame open-source (2)

xtracto (837672) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485954)

Well, I think both you and GP are right to a degree.

Sun did failed to establish competitive solutions (and thus monetize) using the assets they had (open source software, hardware, etc).

Instead, they got stuck on their relatively expensive hardware and as you childishly put it stick your fingers in your ears, squeeze your eyelids shut, and go "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!" at the top of your voice, and just keep on keepin' on,.

A good CEO would have identified potential business opportunities to leverage (gosh I hate this word) their open source software (think IBM Eclipse [free] and Rational software, RedHat Enterprise and Virtualization, Moodle Commercial Services, etc)to increase their income.

Re:Blame open-source (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486056)

Their x86 servers were right in line with HP and IBM, the difference was the cost of the support contract which was just insane with Sun. Given the fact that they had no desktop or laptop line and didn't have a useful storage line there was very little cross sell so unless you were a legacy SPARC/Solaris shop there was little reason to pick Sun over HP/IBM/Dell. Heck these days I think Cisco has a more compelling story in the x86 space!

Re:Blame open-source (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486230)

To be fair, Sun did buy a company with a credible storage offering. Then they ruined the product, refused to market it, nominally refused to sell it, end-of-life'd most of the products people were actually using, and finally fired everyone who understood it.

Re:Blame open-source (2)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485418)

Read the article. The mistake Sun made was not opening at the right time.

Re:Blame open-source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485436)

The only mistake Sun made was being super late to the open source and commodity game and replacing Scott with ponytail-boy, who took a sinking ship and emptied all of its cargo for himself, before escaping with a dandy little haiku on twitter and letting the rest of the passengers drown.

Re:Blame the summary (5, Interesting)

Migala77 (1179151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485452)

Right, the only mistake Sun did was open-source too much. Like all the closed shop were doing wonderfully well too.

The summary is incomplete. Somewhere else in the interview he mentions that one of his regrets is not open sourcing Solaris earlier, claiming it was better than, and could have beaten Linux. His point is that they didn't have a good business model and didn't make enough money from the open source, but he also clearly still believes open source can be profitable, and open source was the right direction for Sun.

Re:Blame the summary (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485772)

So when he said "We probably got a little too aggressive near the end and probably open sourced too much and tried too hard to appease the community and tried too hard to share" he was just lying like a weasel, as his contradictory hindsight also says he should have done more of what he did "too much".

Open source wasn't the problem, as he freely admits. Doing it too late was the problem. By the time it was "near the end" it was too late to "take care of the shareholders" by doing anything different. Open source was the only thing keeping Sun relevant near the end, and therefore the only thing taking care of the shareholders.

McNealy screwed up, as everyone watching Solaris sink could tell. He should have opened the Solaris source, ported it to Java running on every CPU but optimized for highest speed on Sparc - and then maybe Xeon. Should have made Java applets actually work on every CPU/OS/browser, the way Adobe did Flash, and bought Macromedia instead of Adobe getting it - or just competing with it. So many things he could have done if he'd managed for the 2000s instead of the early 1990s. Now he's just a whiner whose day is long gone.

Re:Blame the summary (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485864)

In 2007 Sun had that thingie, if you would fill in a form, they would send you solaris. It's 2010 now. Almost 2011. Despite numerous mails from my side, I am still waiting for Solaris.

This'll be fun (-1, Flamebait)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485356)

I'm sure the Slashdot community will be more than happy to loudly tell Mr. McNealy exactly why he's wrong. Just don't forget who the CEO- with total knowledge of the company's inner workings and financial statements- is, and who the people trolling from their basement with no business/management experience whatsoever are.

Re:This'll be fun (2)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485446)

> with total knowledge of the company's inner workings and financial statements ...who ran the company into the ground.

> with no business/management experience whatsoever are.

          Of course that is blatantly untrue. We are not without experience. We have
the most relevant experience of all. We're the ones who have been in the trenches
watching as Sun did this to itself.

          We are Sun's customers.

          Of course in your sort of MBA-cult mentality the actual customers don't care.

Re:This'll be fun (1)

nharmon (97591) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485476)

Except, this CEO didn't exactly manage things to a positive result, did he? And if I were asked to guess who understands open-source business models more; Slashdot readers or CEOs of companies that failed to capitalize on open-source business models? I'd go with the Slashdot readers every time.

Re:This'll be fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34486006)

Except, this CEO didn't exactly manage things to a positive result, did he?

Scott McNealy started a company 30 years ago and was CEO for 22 of those. When he resigned Sun employed 38K ppl. Sun was bought this year for $7.4 billion. You may not like that it was bought, you may not like who bought it, but I would call that a positive result. If you can do better, please do.

Open Source mouth; insert foot (3, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485482)

"Just don't forget who the CEO- with total knowledge of the company's inner workings and financial statements- is, and who the people trolling from their basement with no business/management experience whatsoever are."

I notice that your Slashdot UID is 1378985. You have clearly concluded that there are almost 1 and 1/2 million Slashdot readers, all of whom have no business experience and troll from their basement. This in spite of numerous recent articles about the fact that the mass of linux kernel and other major Open Source project developers are paid developers, many of whom work for very big name companies in the high technology industry. You have clearly forgotten who has the experience to analyze McNealy's position, and whom the guy without the experience opening his mouth out of turn is.

News Flash: There are many, many, many people in the world more qualified to analyze where Sun went wrong with their approach to Open Source than Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy, and some of them are right here on Slashdot. In fact, the decline of Sun could be viewed as specific evidence that there was a lack of understanding about Open Source on his part. HP, IBM, Intel, and many other big name hardware/software companies seem to have managed to keep on without losing their shirt in the process, for example.

Re:Open Source mouth; insert foot (1)

Migala77 (1179151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486118)

In fact, the decline of Sun could be viewed as specific evidence that there was a lack of understanding about Open Source on his part.

But he admits that, doesn't he?

"That's the message," McNealy tells us. "You gotta strike a proper balance between sharing and building the community and then monetizing the work that you do... I think we got the donate part right, I don't think we got the monetize part right.'

Now, if you can share your insight on how to build a multi-billion-dollar-company, please do...

Re:Open Source mouth; insert foot (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486258)

There are many, many, many people in the world more qualified to analyze where Sun went wrong with their approach to Open Source than Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy, and some of them are right here on Slashdot.

Now, if you can share your insight on how to build a multi-billion-dollar-company, please do...

Logical fallacy: transparent attempt to redefine terms by reframing the debate.

Re:This'll be fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485556)

Just don't forget who the CEO was who failed to adapt Sun after the dot com bust. What's your point? That basement dwellers with no business or management experience would not be able to lead a company to its destruction like McNealy did?

Re:This'll be fun (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486002)

You keep on repeating this "basement dweller" nonsense like some article of faith.

We're the ones that have been in the trenches for the last 20 years.

Re:This'll be fun (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485588)

Just don't forget who the President and then CEO is, who oversaw the nose-dive of Sun shares to that being scooped from the bottom for a bargain price that he mentions. In fact, Oracle paid too much: Sun was already only worth some 3 billions at the time. Between November 2007 alone and November 2008, the total worth of Sun shares dropped by 80%. And Schwartz was compensated to the tune of over 11 million dollars for that nose-dive Sun took in 2008. 'Cause, you know, nothing says "the CEO deserves a big fat bonus" as driving the company in such a nose-dive where it lost 80% of its worth. The guy who oversaw in 2004 the cancellation of Sun's CPU designs and most R&D, followed predictably by a spike in profits and then by the crash we all saw.

Just about the only thing that can be said in Schwartz's favour is that at least it wasn't as bad as Scott McNealy's strategy of just foaming at the mouth against Microsoft and bipolar swings between "we love teh LINUX!!!" and "Linux is teh EVIL! DIE! DIE! DIE!" often within the same day, instead of telling customers why they'd want to buy Sun gear. No, big companies don't give you money just to fight Microsoft, Scott. Which strategy resulted in the drop in Sun share value by a factor of TEN TIMES between 2000 and end of 2003. (With an even deeper dip in 2001.)

Even giving ample allowance for just having the deck stacked against Sun, Schwartz just didn't prove that he's the genius CEO who can pull it out. If the guy had taken Sun and doubled its share value, ok, I'd listen to what he has to say and take notes. But being the guy who sat there while the company continued going downhill is hardly some kind of credentials. My cat could sit there and watch the stock roll downhill. And my cat wouldn't even need 11 millions compensation for that job.

So you're asking me to do, what? Trust him just because... what? Is he some kind of nobility that us peons have to trust and never question? Really, WTH is he? The High Priest of the Sun? Well, ok...

Can I believe that some random nerd could know better? Actually, yes. Heck, I'd even trust my barber to have a thing or two to teach Schwartz.

Oh, McNealy? Now that'll be even more fun (2)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485634)

Oh, my bad, turns out that the muppet in the summary actually is McNealy not Schwartz. Sorry. Now that's even more fun. As I was saying, McNealy is the guy who was just foaming at the mouth against Microsoft and was having split personality fits about Linux and OSS, while Sun was pretty much imploded. There were people jumping ship _because_ Sun had abandoned almost any pretense of having a product to sell, and was just telling everyone why they should give it money to fight Microsoft.

And who alienated the very same OSS gang he now talks about, with his schizophrenic swings between professing his love for OSS and Linux in the morning, and foaming at the mouth against it in the evening. I don't think that guy ever really either understood OSS or embraced it half as much as he tries to make it sound.

It's like, dunno, take my criticism of Schwartz above and make it times ten.

Re:This'll be fun (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486076)

While Slashdot certainly has its share of ignorant blowhards, there is something to be said for distance as an analytical tool...

Until androids replace humans in management, the people with the most intimate knowledge will also be the people with the greatest emotional investment. Sometimes somebody with less detailed knowledge; but less personal investment, can be useful...

Translations.. (2)

nanospook (521118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485368)

I need another CEO job and I can't get one!

Re:Translations.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485500)

Or, as TFA points out, he's so fucking rich that he works for free consulting for startups.

Ayn Rand? (2)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485384)

"...while he's never read Atlas Shrugged, McNealy cites its author Ayn Rand as his mentor while he was growing up. Rand is a hero to those on the political right "

Interesting...

Re:Ayn Rand? (4, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485444)

That's hardly news, and McNealy is far from the most powerful guy who loves Ayn Rand. For instance, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan was a big fan of her as well.

The reason, I think, is that Ayn Rand's philosophy is that people become rich and powerful because they're better and more valuable people than those who don't. Compare that to, say, Karl Marx, who would argue that people become rich and powerful because they're scum-sucking leeches who like to steal from everybody else. Now, if you're rich and powerful, which philosophy would make you feel better about yourself and what you did to get to where you are?

Re:Ayn Rand? (1)

Migala77 (1179151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485522)

The reason, I think, is that Ayn Rand's philosophy is that people become rich and powerful because they're better and more valuable people than those who don't. Compare that to, say, Karl Marx, who would argue that people become rich and powerful because they're scum-sucking leeches who like to steal from everybody else. Now, if you're rich and powerful, which philosophy would make you feel better about yourself and what you did to get to where you are?

And which makes you feel better about yourself if you are not rich and powerful?

Re:Ayn Rand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485640)

And which makes you feel better about yourself if you are not rich and powerful?

Religion, opiate of the masses

Re:Ayn Rand? (3, Insightful)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485828)

And which makes you feel better about yourself if you are not rich and powerful?

American Idol.

Laughable (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485734)

former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan was a big fan of her

That's quite a laugh, seeing how Greenspan was precisely at the top of the power pyramid that Rand was vehemently opposed to. Without a doubt, Rand would be 100% against a situation where consolidated power (i.e. government) is master of the economy, where an elite few have the ability to pull financial strings to benefit some at the expense of others, or impede the free market via one central point of failure.

More likely, Greenspan merely cherry-picked from her philosophy where he thought it would aid him politically. Calling him a "big fan" is naive to say the least. A "big fan" of Ayn Rand wouldn't be in the business of government in the first place.

Re:Laughable (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485854)

Actually Alan Greenspan knew her personally, and was part of "The Collective" when she was still living. He didn't become Fed Chairman until five years after her death. There are a lot of Objectivists who called him a sellout for being party to the fiat system, and his response was that he "had to make compromises." Saying that Greenspan was "a big fan" of Ayn Rand is simultaneously an understatement and an overstatement. The relationship is/was a lot more complicated than that.

I don't think it's even about rich or non-rich (4, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485778)

I don't think it's even about rich or non-rich. What Ayn Rand does isn't as much a defense of being rich, as a defense of psychopathy and of not giving a damn about the others or their well being.

And while in her writing she does somewhat tone it down, in her diary she was going all fangirl over people like William Edward Hickman. That was her ideal of superman and she loved a quote from him saying "what is good for me is right."

Just to make it clear, what William Edward Hickman was famous for was kidnapping a schoolgirl and mailing her father taunting ransom notes signed with names like "Fate" or "Death". Then when the father came with the money, and thought he saw his girl sleeping in the abductor's car, she got thrown out of the car... dead. Hickman had cut off her limbs -- by his own testimony, _alive_, as the blood was coming out in small spurts, i.e., the heart was still beating -- hollowed out her torso and strewn her inner organs all over town. Actually living out an earlier fantasy he had told a former accomplice about, to take someone apart and chuck bits of them all over town.

Ayn Rand thought Hickman was some kind of dashing romantic adventurer whose only "crime" was rejecting the unreasonable conformism of society. (Like, you know, not taking live children apart.) She pretty much foamed at the mouth against those boring sheeples who dared so self-righteously criticize her hero. A bit later she blames society for basically not offering him anything better to do than gut and dismember a little girl. I mean what was the poor guy supposed to do? Get a boring job and a boring wife and all that? No, really. That's her justification for Hickman.

And really, that's what her writing is about. Even the economic angle is Bullshit with a capital B. I mean, her utopia needs an infinite free energy source to even function. But she manages to do a heck of a job in lionizing the psychopaths who doesn't give a damn about anyone else, and calling those "statists" and "collectivists" names, and fantasizing about their destruction.

Now consider that a large number of those at the top _are_ psychopaths. See, for example: Is Your Boss A Psychopaths? [fastcompany.com]

If you were one, wouldn't you just _love_ a philosophy that says it's just normal to not give a damn about anyone else, and that it's an _objective_ (or Objectivist) fact that it's all about caring for number one?

Re:Ayn Rand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485930)

The reason, I think, is that Ayn Rand's philosophy is that people become rich and powerful because they're better and more valuable people than those who don't.

I wonder what she would have made of Bill Gates. The guy beat everyone else in the game by her standard of success (profits) by charging everyone for millions of hours of lost productivity.

Re:Ayn Rand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485464)

"...while he's never read Atlas Shrugged, McNealy cites its author Ayn Rand as his mentor while he was growing up. Rand is a hero to those on the political right "

Interesting...

She was an adulterer - fucked anything she liked and when her husband complained, she would have some philosophical rationalization for her behavior. She was brilliant at rationalizations for her malicious behavior.

So, if she's a hero of the political right, then the political right approves of adultery and malicious behavior.

She had some interesting philosophy - albeit a bit extreme in cases and adolescent - but as a person, well, I think she needed to be anally ravaged with a barbed wire condom.

Re:Ayn Rand? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485676)

What makes you think political right disapproves of her for this? In fact they eulogize her even more for being able to spin her way out of it.

Re:Ayn Rand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485582)

those on the political right

Nice to see how you've kept it so neat. I'm glad politics is so precisely set up. Could you release your code for that? thx

His "mentor"? (1)

sirwired (27582) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485716)

Let me get this straight: Ayn Rand was his "mentor", yet he's never read her what is considered by most (and Ms. Rand herself) to be her "flagship" novel? The Fountainhead was merely a warming-up exercise to Atlas... Personally, I think both novels are awful, but I've never been a big fan of polemic, no matter which side of the political spectrum it falls on. (And too many good authors fall into the trap of thinking I give a $hit about their political views and let their books suffer greatly as a result; e.g. Clancy after "Cardinal of the Kremlin".)

Maybe he has political ambitions, and professing admiration for Ayn Rand is just a checkbox he felt obligated to fill out...

SirWired

Re:Ayn Rand? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486276)

Obviously. If he'd read Atlas Shrugged, he would never have been a fan.

ok (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485396)

What it is so strange. All that are true. auto sales [auto-my.com]

Nothing to do with it (5, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485406)

Sun's biggest problem was that its various flagship products were out-competed or unprofitable. On the high end hardware, IBM could build better mainframes. On the lower end hardware, Dell could build cheaper workstations and servers. On their Unix, Linux became as good as or better than Solaris. And Java, while nifty, had no way of turning a profit.

By open-sourcing its software offerings, Sun ensured that while its business was screwed, its legacy lives on.

Re:Nothing to do with it (4, Insightful)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485552)

It's more that Linux became "good enough" for a lot tasks and was cheaper. Having worked around both, Solaris still has features that if it's needed are worth the money.

Re:Nothing to do with it (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486114)

What features?

You throw claims like this around and don't even bother to mention anything.

No. Sun's problem was thinking like this. Everyone treated Sun and Solaris like it was something when it really wasn't all that. After a few years in a Sun shop, moving into a more heterogeneous environment would wipe the "Sun worship" right out of you.

The problem of "real unix" at the top, and "linux" at the bottom is spot on.

Linux and x86 also highlighted just how weak Sun's RISC offerings were.

Sun got a lot of business it never deserved purely based on marketing and the strength of it's "brand". The same goes for Oracle too.

Re:Nothing to do with it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485572)

>And Java, while nifty, had no way of turning a profit.

Sure it did. Most java vms are of the embedded variety which, unlike desktop/server vms, are not free.

Hell every single blue-ray player has a, IIRC, fairly pricey jvm included (BD+)

Re:Nothing to do with it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485604)

And Java, while nifty, had no way of turning a profit.

And Java, while trying to be portable, does not have a runtime environment for even a fraction of the platforms that 8-bit NES has.

Re:Nothing to do with it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485764)

Sure here is the code: If you are a liberal, then you suck else you are a conservative then you are a limp dick, else you are a capitalist then you must produce or else you are looter liberal. ERROR Msg: you can make mistakes as a capitalist, but you must fix them and make a better product, else you are liberal who can never produce anything and can steal from a producer.

What he really said (3, Funny)

OzTech (524154) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485410)

> We were a wonderful acquisition — we got stolen for a song at the bottom of the Dow

Translation (spin removal) - I screwed up - and would now like to thank the Gods for my "golden parachute". Since I think a suitable time period has passed (hey, it's 2010 and people have an attention span of 2 minutes or less, besides nobody who will live much longer than another 2-3 years even knows who Bill Joy, or a SPARC let alone a 360 was), it is okay for me to now attempt to twist and distort history so the world doesn't remember me as "the bloke who fsked up, big time and killed off one of the last bastilions of real technical people who "got it"."

- Yeah, I fsked up BIG TIME, but you can' t prove it and my name isn't Julian Assange, so after tomorrow you won't remember anyway.

Meally mouthed (4, Insightful)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485448)

That's strange. Red Hat does all via Open Source and is about to pass the $1 Billion mark. Sounds like to me McNeally was a very poor CEO and it had nothing to do with the things they Open Sourced.

I don't think Oracle has to worry... (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485454)

Oracle is not nor has ever been about opensource. It's about making money. Unlike Sun, if it doesn't make money (either directly or indirectly), Oracle will dump it. Oracle knows why it's in business, who its customers are and they are not developers, the community, consumers, or small businesses. They are large companies, the government, and other big institutions.

Sun made a strategic mistake not tactical one. (5, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485488)

When Microsoft was chewing into the market share of Sun's unix workstation, it fought a short sighted battle. OS vs OS. Server vs Server. But Microsoft had an unending money supply through its monopoly in the MS-Office franchise. Microsoft could simply wait it out in a slugfest. Then Linux got ported into intel. The server market was being chewed on both ends and it simply did not have any viable options left. He is just looking for scape goats in the form of open source and the community. It realized it very late and tried to use StarOffice but never had the strategic vision to use it effectively.

Google is doing it right. Its google-docs does not do much, in terms of bells and whistles it pales when compared to Ms-Office. But it is well positioned based on a simple truth. 90% of the people need only 10% of the features of full fledged Ms-Office. Give that 10% free and effectively deny Ms-Office the mind-share of 90% of the people. Force Microsoft to interoperate with a significant part of this 90%. Give customers of Microsoft some ammunition in price negotiation. Anything that will make Microsoft play defense in the Office arena, is the resource it can not spend in fighting Google. It is ably helped by Microsoft that has promoted to leading positions people who won the corporate desktop market. Like Civil War generals fighting the war using Napoleonic tactics against machine guns, or the WW-I generals fighting that war using Civil War lessons, the management of Microsoft is fighting the consumer market war using corporate desktop war tactics.

Coming back to Sun, it was effectively done in by amortization. The cost of development and research of intel chips was spread over so many more customers compared to the sparc chips. The same way cost of development of Windows was spread over a much larger number of customers. When there is an order of magnitude difference between you and your competitor in terms of potential for amortization of cost of R&D, you should have the vision to react early and react decisively. For all the high salaries paid to these MBA types, they did not see it coming.

I'll grant you I am Monday-morning-quarter-backing. But I not getting Sunday-after-noon-quarterbacking salaries either. Scott McNealy got paid to see this coming. He failed. Miserably.

Re:Sun made a strategic mistake not tactical one. (3, Insightful)

james_shoemaker (12459) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485586)

"Then Linux got ported into intel" and all this time I thought it was written originally on the 386.

Re:Sun made a strategic mistake not tactical one. (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485614)

Yes, at that time, intel chips were not as powerful as sparc chips. May be I should have said, intel chips with linux caught up to the speed of power of sparc chips. Again intel chips R&D was spread over much larger number of customers compared to sparc. Thus though Moore's Law was helping both the chips, Intel has much more cash to take advantage of it.

What about (1)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485492)

What about death by alienation, because you shit where you eat? (ie on your open source developers)

As for Scott's comments, I don't see Redhat in the same free fall Sun was in. Of course Sun was passive aggressive towards the OS community in many aspects. Redhat for the most part hasn't been.

Re:What about (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485664)

Scott's comments were with a pre-Solaris (SVR4) view point, I think. He makes the case that in the early nineties, Sun was to BSD as RedHat was to Linux today (bubble ignored).

I think that's a reasonable characterization.

I'm not an expert, BUT (2)

assertation (1255714) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485590)

I'm not an expert and I don't follow these things so take my opinion as is.

I remember people talking in the early 2000s when Sun was trying to be the "dot in the dotcom" that Sun lost to linux. Many companies simply didn't need a big Sun box and now that they could get something unixy on a box more appropriate to their business that is what they did.

That could have happened if a proprietary business one day saw a niche for a unix operating system on a small machine.

Sun was all about selling big machines and their OS for those big machines.

Aside from that, I think he has a good point about thinking carefully when aiming the open source gun.

Many companies make it hard to buy something...at least for programmers.

If somebody can download something for free and have it work fine, they will not bother to go through the channels in their company to get them to buy something.

Re:I'm not an expert, BUT (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486216)

The real kicker is the fact that Sun did have a x86 Unix before Linux made a name for itself.

Commoditization (5, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485594)

Sun succumbed to the same thing that felled SGI, namely the boom in commodity computing. Sun made some really great products, the problem was that they also that made products that were really expensive. Back in the day when the difference between the high end and commodity was significant enough that a lot of companies were willing to shell out the money for the primo shit. However so called "commodity" computing(both hardware and software) has eventually caught up and a lot of companies could no longer rationalize the difference between Sun's stuff and the much cheaper products.

For instance 2 years ago we were looking for a new RAID and were considering Sun's ZFS storage appliance but the $10k for 2 tb was just waaaay to much money for the tiny extra bit of redundancy we could get. It was cheaper to just buy a much bigger raid, split it in 2, and do an rsync. Not the greatest situation in the world, but ultimately it saves a lot of money. Sun just could not compete for anything but a relatively tiny niche market while having massive amounts of capital tied up in labor and facilities.

Here's some reasons why Sun was hurting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485606)

Even after death Sun still doesn't get it. Here's where you went wrong Sun: 1) You were expensive! REAL expensive. Your hardware, your support, and your software were too pricey. You never adjusted as Linux came on the scene. 2) You were WAY behind! Look at how long you keep the bare-bones and clunky OpenWindows as your desktop. Look at how pathetic the "new and improved" CDE was compared to the other desktops of the time. 3) My opinion is that Sun didn't hire enough new engineers. They were too content to keep computing have the "dusty" old feel that companies like Apple had the foresight to shed. Too bad. It was really bad leadership, and this proclamation shows that they still don't get it.

Sun Hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485678)

We're still using older Sun hardware in our data centers as Oracle servers. When Oracle upped the licensing prices for Oracle on Sun SPARC multi-core chips, we decided that upgrading the hardware would be too expensive due to the increase in Oracle licensing costs and stuck with the old gear even while upgrading Solaris and Oracle on the hardware. We also began looking at new, replacement hardware. Our new servers that I'm working on now are Dell R710's running Red Hat 5.4.

Red Hat Proves McNealy's Incompetent (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485698)

Red Hat does quite well giving away its open source OS and apps as fast as it can. That's not what devalued Sun.

What devalued Sun was that its CEO, McNealy, was unable to run such a company. He kept proprietary products like Solaris propped up for years longer than they had a market among competitors like Windows and Linux, even as primary competitor IBM deprecated its proprietary OSes to embrace them both. Then McNealy punted on Solaris, opening its source only when there was no demand for it. Sun's Solaris business didn't get taken by competitors copying Solaris' source or anything like that. In fact, opening the source kept it going for years, even if it was too little, too late to save it. Especially with the CEO failing to actually embrace open source, but rather seeing it as a dumping ground for nonproductive assets instead of a hothouse to grow those assets into productive centers to be monetized.

McNealy is like any failed CEO whose failure was trying to control something better developed by letting it go more: blame the "liberals" ("liberal" means "free from control"). If McNealy can blame open source for his own failures, he might find new income from the many other incompetent businesses that need a scapegoat like open source to hide their own failures. And in today's corporate world, especially America's, there is no higher demand for anything than for a scapegoat.

But... (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485876)

But why would anyone follow his advice after he ran Sun into the ground?

Privacy is dead... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34485924)

The privacy (of source code) is dead, get over it.

Ex-Sun CEO Warns Oracle of Death By Op (1)

pscottdv (676889) | more than 3 years ago | (#34485974)

'cause that's a big concern... That Oracle will open source too much code.

Sun killed themselves in the Unix Wars (1)

MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486090)

Sun was the leading provider of workstations and Unix servers and could do no wrong - until the Unix wars. Rather that unifying the market, the Unix wars fragmented the vendors and opened the door for someone else to walk in with a hardware-neutral OS. That was Microsoft with Windows NT.

I was deeply involved in the CAD world and all the good apps ran on Unix. PCs were low-power toys. Customers were tired of supporting different platforms for different apps and wanted a single OS for all platforms. Just as it looked like it was close to happening (the Year of Unix), it turned into a battle between AT&T/Sun and OSF (Open Software Foundation - DEC, HP, SGI, IBM and others). Sun chose the (annoying to me) OpenLook interface, while Microsoft offered OSF a Windows-lookalike interface called "Motif". Microsoft supported OSF, while working on Windows NT to replace Unix. Upon adding SGI's Open GL interface to NT, CAD vendors began to see NT as an alternate to Unix. When Solidworks appeared on NT, the race to port Unix apps to NT was on.

So I think Sun wasted their energy in trying to beat their Unix rivals while Microsoft focused on what customers wanted (one OS for all) and won.

(Yes - in those days MS focused on customers.)

The funny thing is the Unix wars were won by an open-source product - GNU/Linux. Image where Sun could have been had they united the Unix world. McNeely lacked vision and let Gates take it all. Pretty stupid. Sun was an asshole company at the time and treated us like jerks. Karma is a bitch, ea?

Bad CEO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34486150)

I left Sun back in the early 1990's - it was quite apparent to me even then that McNealy was going the wrong way and ought to have been replaced by the board of directors.

There are a large cadre of former Sun people who felt that Sun could have been a contender but that it was stuck in quicksand created by its own top management.

Forgotten also is the damage done to Sun by its relationship with AT&T back in that era - all of that caused years and years of internal strife over machine architectures [anybody remember Sun OS on the AT&T 3-B Uselesses?] and System V versus BSD. Nobody ever seemed to notice Microsoft growing and taking customers.

Downward spiral (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486260)

Sun was already dying before the opened up Java or Solaris. But lets blame something else than poor management.

Two things killed Sun. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 3 years ago | (#34486324)

The dot com boom, and Jonathon Schwartz. When the dotcom bubble broke, Sun was suddenly in the position of having to compete with an enormous inventory of used SPARC servers coming on the market. They didn't cut their overhead enough to deal with the double-whammy of reduced sales and competition from much cheaper intel-based servers. Add to that, a CEO who was tragically out of his depth, and the result was inevitable. The one thing I can give Sun's management credit for is selling the rotting carcass to Oracle for at least double what it was worth.

-jcr

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...