Freedom To Shine On Sun’s Software

    July 22, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

At the AlwaysOn conference, Sun president Jonathan Schwartz says his company intends to make all of its software free.

Give away the software, but will the hardware sales follow?

For Sun Microsystems, the answer to that question could be the difference between returning to pre dot-com bust profitability, or relegation to the memory of hundreds of admins who spent far too much time tweaking ndd settings in Solaris to ever see the Sun itself.

Solaris 10 now can be found online and downloaded without payment. Java has been available for free, but unlike Solaris has not had its source code released openly to the development community.

Could interoperability be the key to the future? “It’s going to be tough for folks that are keeping their technologies in a closed-source environment to convince [the market] that they’re serious about interoperability,” said Mr. Schwartz.

By “closed-source” Mr. Schwartz mean Microsoft, the dominant player in software today. Microsoft has a long reputation for not always playing nice with others. Opinions supporting that contention can be found from yesterday’s Netscape to today’s European Union, and at points in between.

Microsoft gets misunderstood frequently, even by those who follow the industry closely. The crew from Redmond does a lot of things, some brilliant engineering tasks, some outright anti-competitive actions. But what they do most of all is listen.

All the features in products like Excel didn’t come out of the minds of in-house developers. Microsoft does feedback and focus groups with considerable zeal, while someone stands in the back and takes lots of notes.

Sun may not realize it, but they’ve begun to do the listening now. The company has released software and source code to the developers in the global open source community. It’s too late for Sun to become the next Linux. But maybe if developers respond and Sun keeps listening, the firm has a chance at becoming what they once were, only better.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.