From SUNW to JAVA: SUN comes to the rescue of under-50-year-old-housewives? Not quite. August 29, 2007Posted by Sacha in JBoss.
So that’s it, SUNW decided to start leveraging their Java brand: they have updated their NASDAQ ticker symbol from SUNW to JAVA. To be frank with you, I thought this move was a rather “shy” one (read: weak). I mean, SUNW has always tried hard to act as the clean “referee” that – unlike Microsoft – builds an healthy open standard-based ecosystem around Java. So now, what do they do? They damage this “Peace of the Braves” by using the “Java” brand as their ticker symbol. That’s probably the most optimal way to get all of the negatives without getting any of the positives. Really, who cares about SUNW’s ticker symbol? Snore…
So, why did SUNW do that? As hinted by Jonathan Schwartz:
the number of people who know Java swamps the number of people who know Sun
Hum, Jonathan, you might want to review the methodology that has been used for this survey. Specifically, who did you ask? Middleware developers, CIO and Gartner Analysts? Or did you ask the “under-50-years-old-housewives” group? Because if you asked the former groups, I bet you got a one-to-one match between Java and Sun. Now, if you asked the later category, I am pretty certain they didn’t know much about Java in the first place, except maybe if they are the proud owner of a Starbucks “frequent drinker” Card. But, do you really really care to educate that group of people at the cost of upsetting your ecosystem? If you really really want to leverage the Java brand, rename “Sun Microsystems” to “Java Microsystems”. You own that brand, so do something real that justifies breaking this subtle equilibrium you’ve built over the years, not a quick-and-dirty something under the carpet.
Ok, I am slightly making fun of Jonathan Schwartz’s decision here and I probably shouldn’t: he is a smart guy. As such, I cannot believe he was just bored and decided to make such a move simply to educate “the masses”. Au contraire. I think that by doing so, SUNW is sending a clear signal to the first group of people, the IT market, that says “the rules of the game are about to change”.
First of all, SUNW is making it clear that they intend to further leverage Java, and probably not only its brand. Jonathan Schwartz is clearly trying to re-focus a big chunk of SUNW’s value around its software business. Still, when you look at their results in the Java space, that’s not brilliant. Truth is that it is difficult to be the referee and to win the match at the same time. And that is probably what SUNW is currently realizing. They have had no success whatsoever with any of the (numerous!) Application Servers they released into the market up to now in spite of the fact that they’ve made significant investments in the software field (including the acquisition of SeeBeyond). Is it paying off? My bet is that it is not. And SUNW is trying to find ways to accelerate their software clock. However, they probably don’t think they can accelerate the time of their payout without changing the rules of the game. That includes the branding of Java, for sure. But that might also include the way they intend to release future versions of the Java Platform (both SE and ME).
When you actually look at the kind of license SUNW proposed to the Apache Foundation for the Harmony project and the imbroglio it created, it is embarrassing. They are not respecting the JCP rules they have themselves defined. They hide behind their finger by using cryptic legal arguments which merely adds to the embarrassment.
And SUNW is sufficiently versed into the JCP rules to understand that if they don’t abide by their own rules, the JCP EC will most probably use the ONLY real power it has: to vote down a spec. Which, in that case, means to vote down the next SE JSR. Given that SUNW doesn’t seem to care about that threat, my guess is that they might be prepared to pull Java out of the JCP. They might keep the JCP running for the non-strategic/non-platform specs, but not rely on it for Java itself. If they want to be the only implementation in town, what do they need a standard for? They could just go the MSFT way and implement-first (with the gentle help of the OpenJDK community, wink, wink) and publish the resulting APIs after. Much less costly, with the same ability to monetize its JVM with OEM (thanks to the GPL). A priori at least.
So let’s see what SUNW’s next moves will be. They’ve clearly put a dot on the map by breaking the long-standing Java equilibrium. We need to see where they’ll put their next dot so we can draw a line and see in which direction it goes.
Jonathan, are you really ready to pull the plug and live with the consequences of that choice?