Sun Loses Software Head to Adobe

Updated: The choice of John Loiacono's replacement could be key for the vendor's fortunes, and for the open-source community.

Sun Microsystems is losing its head of software, John Loiacono, to Adobe Systems.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company on March 16 confirmed that John Loiacono, who took over as executive vice president of software in 2004 after then incumbent Jonathan Schwartz was appointed chief operating officer and president, is leaving and that March 24 will be his last day.

Loiacono has worked at Sun for some 20 years, starting his career as a sales representative, rising to become Suns chief marketing officer, then leading the Solaris team and, ultimately, the entire software organization.

Under Loiaconos stewardship, Suns flagship Solaris operating system was made available at no cost and then released as the OpenSolaris open-source project.

Sun is taking the same approach with its Java Enterprise System software as it has done with Solaris, and both Loiacono and Schwartz have repeatedly said the end goal is to open-source its entire software stack.

A Sun spokesperson told eWEEK on March 16 that Loiacono would not be available for an interview before his departure, but provided a statement saying Schwartz would oversee Loiaconos responsibilities as head of Suns software division, adding that the company would undertake "a thorough search to replace John in which both internal and external candidates will be considered."

Loiacono will serve as senior vice president of creative solutions at Adobe, where he will have responsibility for the development, delivery and marketing of Adobes entire creative software portfolio, including brands like Adobe Creative Suite, Macromedia Studio, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Flash Professional and Macromedia Dreamweaver, the company said in a statement released March 16.

Loiacono will be based at Adobes San Jose, Calif. headquarters, and will report to Shantanu Narayen, Adobes president and chief operating officer.

Narayen said in a statement that "with Johns leadership we will continue to innovate across the creative markets to deliver integrated suites that simplify workflows," while at the same time giving customers new product features that keep Adobes software ahead of the competition.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Suns launch of OpenSolaris.

In a move to try and pre-empt perception of what skeptics will undoubtedly characterize as a huge loss and a further sign of the companys decline, Sun downplayed the significance of Loiaconos departure.

The statement maintained that "while it is always sad to see valued employees depart Sun, the company is constantly acquiring world-class talent through acquisitions, strategic hires and previous employees returning to Sun."

These recent appointments include that of Mike Lehman as Suns new chief financial officer, as well as the return of Peder Ulander, who left in 2004 for embedded Linux specialist MontaVista, but rejoined Sun as vice president of software marketing.

"These two appointments are just recent examples of Suns constant injection of fresh thinking and ideas to senior ranks," the statement said.

Some analysts, such as Michael Dortch of the Robert Francis Group, based in Westport, Conn., said to eWEEK that the big issue is not Loiaconos departure so much as whom Sun picks as his successor.

"Loiacono will certainly be missed, as he was a great focal point and ambassador for Suns software efforts. However, with all due respect, software at Sun is bigger than any single executive," Dortch said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifSuns CTO says "open services" are the next big thing. Read more here.

Sun has embarked on a path that seems focused on developing unique intellectual property, realizing that IP as hardware or software, and then building communities of developers, partners, supporters and users around that IP, he said.

Further, he said, senior management at Sun seem to be increasingly aware that influencing such a community has far greater commercial and political value than appearing to control it.

"So the real question of the day is not so much how Loiaconos departure does or does not affect Sun, but who Sun can bring in (or up or over from within) to continue leading the charge toward innovative, powerful software and robust, active supporting communities," Dortch said.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include more information on John Loiaconos new position at Adobe.

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