back to article What if IBM doesn't buy Sun?

Are we witnessing Sun's death rattle with both CEO and chairman of the board poised to walk the plank? That is highly likely to be the outcome if IBM does not buy Sun. IBM is thought to be carrying a kind of due diligence on Sun as it ponders buying the company - but is it really thinking about buying Sun? If it isn't or if …


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  1. EnigmaForce

    Glad this is under the "Opinion" section

    Because that piece was about as impartial as Bill O' Reilly.

  2. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Jobs Halo

    Rocky IC Roads ....Rolling Green Fields

    If IBM don't buy Sun Apples will Sun sell itself to make Cider with Ruby and drown IBM in Red Wine and Titan Reign from the Cloud? Or will those with Jobs just go IT alone without any Struggling Junket with Excessive Baggage to Clog up the Program, Slow down the Project?

    Still, for a token dollar purchase, would it be a worthwhile and very Profitable Future Sale.

  3. this

    Deja vu

    A mind-jarringly repetitive article. I kept thinking my concentration was shot and I was reading the same paragraph over and over. Did anyone read it before publishing it?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Take the Business Private

    Sun has been driven into the ground by Schwartz. He just isn't as clever as he thinks he is and has surrounded himself with some serious second rate yes men who have been like kids in a toy shop not knowing what to play with and break next.

    Either get a proper businessman to run the business AKA Ben Vervayen, or Eric Schmidt or sach Schwartz and take the business private.

    Mcnealy must take some of the blame, he appointed and has stood back...Come on Scott hang up the sticks, sack the geek and get real

  5. breakfast Silver badge

    What are Sun for?

    It seems to me that Sun just don't know what they are for any more. Since the whole dot com thing they have seemed to be lost and adrift with no serious idea of what they do or where there money is going to come from.

    Which is a shame because they have done some good things, but in the last five years, maybe more, they don't seem to have been doing much at all, certainly nothing that looks like a strategy.

  6. John Chadwick

    Yes this is an opinion..

    But it does raise a lot of questions about what is really going on. We could for example think that IBM has done this, only because it has seen an oppertunity to drive Sun out of business. That Sun needs a partner, if it is to remain an independent public company, I think is true.

    To remain private, well that's a different matter, and probably the best solution for Sun's staff and customers, but probably not the management team.

    I don't think Sun's core products will disappear that quickly, they are embedded in too many other things, and we also have no idea how the competition authorities would view this. I suspect they would be very loath to let Sun's products be subsumed by the likes of IBM or Oracle. The risks of heading for too many duopoly situations in IT springs to mind, so perhaps we could have a bit more informed comment here. Chris's comments are perfectly valid, but I think more is needed, as there's far more at stake here that the credability of Sun's management team. They are toast, but I suspect they want to be rich toast.

  7. No Use for A Name

    bad timing

    surely the rumors did a lot of damage just as the public opinion on sun brightened a bit with their recent products, fishworks in particular. also quite some excitement about opensolaris in the shops I deal with. but ever since the rumor dropped nobody is willing to take any chance with sun, even though their kit is nice and their software impresses. to bad.

    last not least I really was looking forward to see rock, tukwila and power7 shootouts this winter...

  8. Ian Davies
    Jobs Halo

    What about Apple?

    they have money coming out of every orrifice, they make use of some significant Sun IP (like ZFS) and not-so significant (like Dtrace) and if they cleared out My Little Pony and his cronies, they'd be left with some serious R&D brainpower and the enterprise clout that might finally get them mass business appeal (assuming they actually want it!)... and it would be nicely ironic since Sun was lined up as a one-time suitor to acquire Apple many moons ago...

  9. Bob Gateaux

    This is the folly of the Javs

    We cannot be surprised to learn that Sun is having no money left to make it's computers. Many years ago now they launched the Javs which we use to make the popular applets.

    They make two big mistakes when they make this.

    First they do not charge any monies for the Javs. This means people have them free and must not pay for them. With Microsoft they did the C Sharp instead and for this we must pay with the Visual Studio. This way they keep it on an even keel and make the monies they need. With Sun they spend monies on the Javs and get none back. This is why Javs are now more broken because of decay from cheap maintenance over those few years.

    Second mistake they make is the very promise of the Jav which is that it must work on each machine not just the Sun one. This mean that we just take their Jav and put it on the Windows where it runs best and not have to buy the big Sun box which take up more space.

    Sun makes these mistakes in the early years but even then some of us would see the folly. Since then they do not change and they run out of the VC monies and must seek more.

    IBM should write own new language and not buy the Javs. It will be better to have this as we can then have new features and not have the Entity Bean which slows me down.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ian Davies

    Not-so significant ??? DTRACE????? Are you kidding?

    You clearly have no idea what dtrace can do.

  11. John Chadwick

    Another thought

    If someone if daft enough to buy SGI.....

  12. Mark Wills

    Java! Won't somebody think of the Java

    I would have thought just the reach of Java was too broad to see it die off. Somebody would surely be interested in Java technology, even if they weren't interested in Sun's hardware?

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Do a Santander

    Just wait until they go bust, then pick up the bits you like for next to nothing, leaving the junk behind

  14. It wasnt me

    Groundhog day

    Im glad this article was under opinion and not opinions. It was just the one opinion, repeated again and again and gain.

  15. Francis Fish

    Calling Mr Shuttleworth

    Sun Microsystems, a division of Canonical.

    That would be worth waiting for.

  16. Chris Bone

    abandon ship!

    I think the writer has a point (several times) in that they have not gone under yet but are definitely uncovering the life-boats!

    However the question remains, what would IBM actually be buying?

    They need another (well actually 4 or more) chip-set and OS like a hole in the head (I cleanded that one up BTW)

    Customers on and comitted to Solaris (and there are a lot of them) will just accelerate plans to move to Linux, which by the way Sun have been pushing as hard as anyone!

  17. John McNeally

    If Sun doesnt sell itself...

    it is because Sun can fail without an IBM merge. And Sun failing without a merge with IBM it means that they could not itself. And by not merging with IBM, Sun will be actually failing to can. And to can mean it does it IBM Sun merge ? Merge, fail, IBM, Sun...

    Oh dear lord... my son could have written a better article about it.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Scott McNealy

    Scott going to by the Company back? Can this be true?

  19. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    House of Cards and Cads?

    "Oh dear lord... my son could have written a better article about it." .... By John McNeally Posted Thursday 2nd April 2009 13:17 GMT

    John, He could maybe have written a more coherent comment too. Been at the sherry, have we?

    The consensus of opinion appears to be that Sun have been petrified in inaction and that is usually a sure sign of no future product ..... an empty innovation portfolio cupboard and just a shell of a company with the in vogue, mot du jour, being Ponzi?

    And Paris because whenever she plays her cards right, would a gentleman always be speechless and far too busy for words.

  20. Sunil

    The Sun may still shine.

    Sun will be fine, with or without IBM.

    I'd be more concerned about the scare Sun is giving it's clients, with all this talk of selling out.

    This acquisition plan is probably being driven by Southwestern Asset management, which own many % of Sun stock... But many within Sun still think that they can turn things around. Many, me included, don't want to sell out.

  21. amanfromMars Silver badge

    All the World loves a Trier/Game Loser.

    "Scott going to by the Company back? Can this be true? " ... By Anonymous Coward Posted Thursday 2nd April 2009 14:02 GMT

    "Rumour has it that Icahn has been using options and derivatives to build a “synthetic long” in Sun Microsystems stock to try and obscure his exact strategy and ownership position." ... Is that the same as a phantom hedge structure of investment vehicle ... with no money changing hands until the insider deals are all done and returns guaranteed rather than speculated/gambled on.

    Win win with loaded dice is the crap version of the game, if it be so....... but only a good plan if you have money to lose.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scott McNealy

    Dated wrong. It was probably supposed to be data 4/1... Not 3/30.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo


    "I'd be more concerned about the scare Sun is giving it's clients"

    What clients?

  24. John Savard


    It's a pity Sun is short of money; they could have bought Silicon Graphics.

    I think that investors are going to be aware that Sun's current plight is not due to horribly incompetent management, but instead to the combination of facing stiff competition... and the small matter of the stock market crash.

    Except for Intel, Microsoft, and possibly IBM, nobody else in the IT business looks like a terribly safe investment either, though, so investors taking the mitigating circumstances into account may not do Sun any good.

  25. Ian Michael Gumby
    Black Helicopters

    Hypothetically Speaking..

    First, my sources tell me that the deal will go through. The only obstacle is going to be the EU. The US's FTC will rubber stamp the deal based on IBM's spin of things to come.

    The EU could object on grounds that it places too much control over Java and key IP tech that would in essence give too much power in to IBM. You really can't have a divestiture of anything without having the deal not go through.

    IBM/SUN could argue and clear the hurdle given time... allowing for a potential other suitor to step forward.

    If for any reason the deal falls through, that doesn't mean its lights out for Sun.

    Sun can still find equity investors however there will be a bit of blood letting and Schwartz will have to go.

    The biggest change is that you will start to see a 'true up' or monetizing of key core technologies. Sun will have to transform itself in to gaining a services organization and could very well be successful.

    Imagine if Accenture were to decide that they wanted to get in to the business to be more competitive with IBM? Or perhaps with money/stock, Sun acquires a couple of key boutique consulting firms.

    Then there's the dark horse. Apple. Combine the two (Sun and Apple) and toss in a boutique PS firm... you may have a serious player in the corporate financial world ...

    But what do I know?

    I predicted Oracle would step in, but those chicken shites didn't want to enter the hardware game ....

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    @What about Apple?

    The problem with that is I think Apple has more than demonstrated over the years that they really don't want to get that far into the Enterprise market. Don't get me wrong their server offering (such as it is) is great. I've personally worked at large multinational companies that were running all Apple kit as a matter of fact. However what we've seen over the years is Apple taking a very hands off approach to the Enterprise market and I honestly don't see that changing anytime soon.

    Now would an Apple acquisition of Sun be interesting? Oh to be sure it would. For the reasons you mentioned as well as others and while I'd love to see the outcome of that deal. Realistically I just don't see it happening.

  27. Ian Michael Gumby

    @Sunil... nothing to be scared of...

    First, there is no deal. (Officially that is.)

    Second, the only reason a rumor was leaked to the WSJ was that IBM wanted to gauge the potential for customer defections along with how the 'street' would accept such a merger.

    If you're running mySQL, that's got to be the biggest concern of all, since IBM will probably make you pay for your production licenses like you were supposed to. But don't panic yet... there are 2 or 3 forked/borked code versions that you can jump to if you're too cheap ...

    If the deal falls through, someone else will step up.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Sun doesn't need IBM or any other company

    What a bullshit story, its amazing how many of this kind of stories come out just to get some extra hits and make a little more money with advertising. Maybe Sun should start a rumor that they are gonna buy The Register because otherwise the website will be shutdown.

    Sun is still one of the best companies in the market of Unix and has an amazing research and development, the new upcoming servers are the fasted and best on the planet.

    Its also a great place to work, even the people that were part of the restructuring can tell you that.

    This kind of idiot stories are not at all helping a company, its time that Scott, Andy, Greg, Jonathan just buy all those stupid stocks back and take Sun of Wall Street, then finally they can do what they want to do and do not have to listen to frustrating companies like Southwestern Asset management who wants to say something in the board meetings, but have no clue what technology is.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. Ian Davies

    Re. Dtrace

    "You clearly have no idea what dtrace can do."

    You're probably right, but that doesn't really dilute the point I was trying to make. Certainly I've read enough articles written for devs/nerds to appreciate that Dtrace is an impressive tool, without necessarily understanding all the reasons *why* it's so impressive, but I still don't think that puts it in the same technology league as ZFS.

    Either way, my point was that Apple already sees the value in some of the things that Sun is developing, so why not bring it in-house?

  31. Jim


    Well HP also has had a tool on HP-UX for a long time that can do at least as much as dtrace if you know how to use it. As for Sun, many people have argued that the biggest problem they've had for more than a decade is Scott McNealy. There was a reason why Jobs was fired from Apple. And he destroyed NeXT. It remains to be seen if his charisma can save Apple. But maybe he learned some lessons during his exile. Sun just lost their vision. They started going off in all kinds of directions. SGI's failure was that they failed to diversify but Sun's is perhaps that they diversified too much. One has to wonder if IBM is paying attention to that. The idea of calling the entire world Tivoli or WebSphere sounds like the same litany they had in the heyday of the mainframe era. I'd like to see Sun survive because I think we need competition in the market but I think they need some new management with the vision to take them in a new direction. They've got a lot of intellectual property capital but they need some leadership to guide it in some productive direction. I'm not putting an emoticon on this post because it's just too depressing.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Sun is dead ... thank JS

    Bye Sun - wheteher the deal goes thorugh or not you are toast.

  33. John Griffiths
    Dead Vulture

    Where Sun went wrong

    In terms of selling hardware they went off the rails for mine when you could no longer just buy a Sun machine.

    Working for a smallish business with heavy internet related needs in the mid to late 90s Sun was a good decision. We'd pick a model, order it, it would be delivered, and then configured. I'd argue that was when the company was reaching its peak.

    A few years later trying to replace those machines we got sent a sales consultant who tried to load us down with crap we didn't need and produced a price point we couldn't afford. We had to bring in outside expertise (at more expense) to find a suitable configuration of all sorts of crap.

    We bought that one, then had to pay Sun for a man to put it all together on site.

    After that we started preparing to migrate away from Sun for the next generation of hardware.

  34. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Renegade Trojan Dark Horse ... Cocoa Renaissance

    "Then there's the dark horse. Apple. Combine the two (Sun and Apple) and toss in a boutique PS firm... you may have a serious player in the corporate financial world ..." .... By Ian Michael Gumby Posted Thursday 2nd April 2009 16:32 GMT

    No maybe about it, Ian, and you would have a New World Order Leader, doing things QuITE Differently, which is probably what is Spooking IBM, but hey, they've made such a Hash/Pig's Ear of Things, a Rest just Following the New Dream Team would do them Good, and it would be a Perfect Vehicle for them to Invest Capital in, to Energise and Facilitate Third Party Driver and Program Spend, thus Allowing them a Remote Proxy Assets Control, for as a Golden Goose will they be Mentored and Encouraged to become Mainstream Partners too in a New Joint Adventure with Novel New Players in a Field of Expertise which is QuITe Alien to them.

    And by "a boutique PS firm", do you mean Power Supply? With such would there then be Total Independence and they could then do anything they wanted, which I suppose would have Uncle SAM in a tither too, and probably also Southwestern Asset Management ... "This kind of idiot stories are not at all helping a company, its time that Scott, Andy, Greg, Jonathan just buy all those stupid stocks back and take Sun of Wall Street, then finally they can do what they want to do and do not have to listen to frustrating companies like Southwestern Asset management who wants to say something in the board meetings, but have no clue what technology is."

    But hey, if they don't have the Balls and the Vision to Lead from the Front with their Intellectual Property Portfolios being Shared with Governments and Overarching Undergrounds alike, to drag them both into the NXXXXT Centuries, then the sooner they are gobbled up by someone who can, the Better for Everyone it will be. Hell, if you aint Leading, you're Following and a Change of Direction going Forward is badly needed and long overdue.

  35. John McNeally


    I was sarcastic with the repetitiveness of the article but apparently you got it all wrong.

    Think out of the box.... pal ...

  36. Ron

    Golden Opportunity for Apple

    If the talks with IBM fall through and Im hoping they do, then this presents a golden opportunity for Apple to sweep in and buy Sun. Sun would gain new energy by merging with Apple and with Apple's management a road map for the future. Technolgy wise Sun is a great fit for Apple and they can strengthen their position in the enterprise and finally take the boring out of enterprise software and improve usability all around by simplifying IT in the enterprise.

  37. Osvaldo
    Thumb Down


    @Jim: No, HP doesn't have enything that remotely competes with DTrace. Prove me wrong.

  38. sun rock

    Probevue is better than dtrace

    not that it matters

  39. David Halko

    @Jim - Irony of Apple, NeXT, Steve Jobs, Scott McNealy, and SUN in your same response

    Jim said, "Well HP also has had a tool on HP-UX for a long time that can do at least as much as dtrace if you know how to use it."

    One could say that any platform that has had "truss" could do it, but these tools are a far cry from DTrace.

    Jim said, "As for Sun, many people have argued that the biggest problem they've had for more than a decade is Scott McNealy."

    Replacing Scott McNealy with Jonathan Ian Schwartz was a strategic move that turned SUN to the opposite direction:

    - stop competing with SPARC on desktops, for workstations

    - stop charging for software, give it away for free

    - stop giving away patches for free, charge maintenance fees

    - stop giving away service manuals for free, charge maintenance fees

    - stop competing with other CPU vendors, embrace them and resell their products

    The downward spiral (during Scott's time) continued, under SUN's completely new direction (during Jonathan's time.)

    People suggest new management, but I don't really understand what that would bring, since such a radical departure from Scott McNealy has already been brought to fruition. I would suggest that new management is not necessarily what is needed, but more risk-taking and flexibility to bring developments faster to market, with a key creative (not bean-counter) person to keep the marketing theme straight. The T series was an example of a very creative product.

    Jim said, "There was a reason why Jobs was fired from Apple. And he destroyed NeXT. It remains to be seen if his charisma can save Apple."

    Apple took a downward spiral during (primarily due to a delayed release of newer high-speed products) & after Steve Jobs left. Collaborations with IBM and investments (which never became reality) with multiple companies into Taligent (to basically compete with what Steve Jobs implemented in NeXT and what Microsoft was trying to develop, but also never really came to fruition) sapped resources. It was not until NeXT was purchased by Apple did they regain their footing with producing viable (by market standards) OS and Hardware.

    In short, Steve Jobs did not destroy NeXT, he CREATED NeXT, brought into Apple everything that was NeXT, where Apple could market it (instead of the ghost-ware Apple and Microsoft was working on, that was never really brought to market.) Apple is clearly a successful company, under Steve Jobs, again, with the NeXT/OSX system in all of their PC's as well as embedded iPhone's.

    Jim said, "But maybe he learned some lessons during his exile. Sun just lost their vision."

    Steve Jobs informed the Apple board of directors what he was doing: he took with him various Apple developers and started NeXT. Clearly, it did not take long for Steve to produce a hardware and software product to his vision, a vision not clearly shared by Apple.

    Apple, during Steve's self-imposed exile, had become a corporate monstrosity, which hindered bringing creative products to market (quickly.) When Steve left, he remedied many of these issues, but the hardware component carried too much investment and cost, to make a reasonable return and Motorola did not provide 680x0 chips to out-perform the market on a quick enough basis.

    One might consider the failure of Motorola (now FreeScale) to invest in the 680x0 as the primary reasons for the pressures on Apple and NeXT (as well as multiple other workstation vendors, who had all moved to various RISC architectures.)

    One might also consider the fragmentation of CPU development resources across so many vendors (formerly sharing a common 680x0 architecture) to have doomed those individual vendors. 680x0 -> SPARC, ALPHA, MIPS, POWER, PA-RISC

    If anyone would have been able to hold those vendors together, it could have been Motorola/Freescale (since this was the common link)... if they were able to supply the required volume of 68K CISC or 88K RISC chips to the vendors.

    It is possible that the lesson learned by Steve Jobs was the migration to Intel, as he had done with NeXT, when he had moved from hardware only to a hybrid hardware/software model, shed the (68K) hardware manufacturing, and moved into a (multi-vendor 68K, PowerPC, PA-RISC, SPARC, x86) software development model for NeXT.

    What is really ironic... your mentioning Apple, NeXT, Steve Jobs, Scott McNealy, and SUN in the same response.

    - Apple acquired NeXT to freshen Apple, and NeXT co-founder Steve Jobs rose to rank of CEO, replacing the CEO who acquired them.

    - SUN acquired Lighthouse Design Ltd. to freshen SUN, and Lighthouse co-founder Jonathan Schwartz rose to rank of CEO, replacing the CEO who acquired them.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    8 years since the dot-com crash, what has Jonathan/Scott done. They drank too much of their own cool-aid. While they just milk the company dry with all these gold-plated rewards for letting the company with their incompetence and inattentiveness. All those cronies such as John Fowler, Greg Papadopoulous, Anil Gadre, Mike Lehman, Crawford Beveridge. All of them are complicit in destroying shareholder value. Look at HP, Apple and IBM. They all changed strategy and thrived. While Jonathan and Scott trapped the company in the same direction. Their stubbornness, incompetence and stupidity can be compared to George W Bush. Scott came from a GM family. No surprise there. He inherited the gift of being a one-trick pony!

  41. zvonr
    Thumb Up

    @David Halko, right on...

    Nice to read a comment that makes sense...

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    Here we go again...

    Well, it looks like the commodity PC has run roughshod over another high-end competitor. Thanks to Windows (NT/2000/XP) on the client and Linux on the server, plus Intel/AMD on the hardware side, there is no room for Sun.

    Another vendor selling proprietary Unix running on RISC sees no future for itself.

    Should we blame Scott McNealy or Jonathan Schwartz? What was Sun’s response when Intel and AMD were revving up the x86 since the mid-1990s to match SPARC? What does Sun offer that we cannot get from Linux or Microsoft? What is Sun Microsystems about, as a company? Have they reduced themselves to a soulless, hollow shell seeking to be consumed in order to survive?

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