Its fascinating to observe how technology companies have responded to the recession. A string of earnings reports and new corporate strategies announced this month offered us a gauge not only of management quality but also of corporate vision and character.
For example, Microsoft, at long last, showed signs of maturity. But Sun took yet another step toward total isolation from the rest of the industry, even as IBM was demonstrating the wisdom of diversity and agnosticism in processors and platforms. AMD and Intel demonstrated that two companies can engage in cutthroat competition through the worst of times and apparently not damage their long-term health. Compaq improved its revenues and reputation even as its betrothed, Hewlett-Packard, went to war with its own stockholders while its products and strategies continued to bewilder customers and partners alike. And Apple wisely moved further into the consumer market, where innovative design and unimpeachable quality are bigger selling points than interoperability.
The biggest news was the announcement by Bill Gates that Microsoft would henceforth make security a higher priority than new features. It was hard to tell whether the sound coming from customers was a big sigh of relief or a resounding "Duh!" But how firm is the commitment? Microsoft also announced another 18 percent jump in revenues. When shoddy products produce such enviable growth, wheres the incentive for discipline?
And then theres Sun, a living lesson in how to turn a heavyweight into a has-been. This is a company that has expended vital competitive energy for years railing against Microsoft, only to discover belatedly that its true rival is IBM. It could learn a thing or two from IBM, which learned hard lessons from the beatings it took in the PC market from Compaq and Microsoft: Never put all your eggs in one processor, operating system, product or division.
Sun, however, isolated itself and angered buyers by announcing it will cease developing a version of its Solaris operating system for Intel-based systems. Combined with a Linux strategy so grudging its laughable, this makes Sun the industrys most xenophobic and dogmatic player by far. SPARC/Solaris is the only platform that matters? I dont think so.
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