Microsoft and Sun working together!? What next? “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria”!?
Of course, Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., who have a long history of hating each others guts, are not likely to work together for long. I think there were two major, short-term motivations that led the pair to resolve their legal and intellectual-property issues with Microsoft paying Sun a cool $1.6 billion.
The first is that Microsoft needs to get out of legal hot water. While the Department of Justice antitrust trial remedies have amounted to almost nothing in the United States, the European Commission shows every sign of getting ready to hammer Microsoft, and Microsoft hopes this deal will lessen the blow.
As for Sun, its Business 101: They need the money. Even with the $1.6 billion, Sun announced yet another big loss of between $750 million and $810 million for its last quarter and laid off 3,300 more people, amounting to 9 percent of its work force. Sun is one sick company.
Sun, it seems to me, has decided that the cure is not Linux or open source. Instead, Sun hopes to find its answers in getting closer to Microsoft. I know, I know, its like hearing someone say that blacker isnt that much grayer than white, but there you go.
You see, Microsoft and Sun do have two things in common. Linux and open source are eating their lunch, and theyre not sure what to do about it. Of course, Sun is the company thats really feeling that pain now. Sun is losing SPARC and Solaris customers every day to AMD/Intel and Linux providers. But Microsoft didnt become Microsoft by underestimating the competition.
Sun, which has one foot in the open-source community with its Linux-based Java Desktop System (JDS) and OpenOffice, simply doesnt trust Linux or open source for their profits. Why they dont, since their old plans arent working, is beyond me. So it is that Sun goes back and forth on open source and, for the moment, its leaning toward proprietary methods, even if that means cooperating with Microsoft.
I dont see how this move will help Sun in the long run. Sun and Microsoft have too much bad blood between them to ever really work together.
Help against Linux
Frankly, what does Microsoft have to gain from a strong Sun, anyway? Help against Linux? From the company that produces the most important rivals, StarOffice and OpenOffice, to Microsoft Office? I dont think so! For Microsoft, making nice with Sun is a pure short-term move. Even if Scott McNealy can resist attacking Microsoft, you know that Microsoft will eventually move against Sun.
Its a pity. I thought that Sun might finally be learning that open source and Linux could provide a way out of their obsolete, proprietary-oriented business plan. I was wrong.
For example, I had hoped that Sun was going to seriously think about open-sourcing Java. I wont bore you with the reasons why I thought that was a good idea, because its simply not going to happen now.
JavaLobby founder Rick Ross asks in a recent column, where is Java in this settlement? Well, while we dont know the details, I think we already know the answer. Rich Green, Suns vice president of developer platforms and a noted Java advocate, recently resigned from Sun, and the two companies are now working on making Java and .Net work better together. Put those facts together, and it certainly sounds to me like, one, Java as a standalone language is being put on the back burner, and two, there is no way on Earth that Java will go open source now.
I also dont see any way on Earth that this move will work for Suns long-term benefit. Maybe the move largely is a play against Linux and its corporate supporters: HP, Novell and IBM. But in the end, Sun, not Linux and open sources real supporters, will be the one that loses.
If Sun really wants to thrive in the future, it should be looking to Novells ongoing transformation into a Linux powerhouse as its model. For example, I think the best thing Sun could do with its Microsoft money is to buy out Red Hat. Its in Linux, not in proprietary plans, that Suns rosiest future lies.
eWEEK.com Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.