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Forbes' "Red Hat = Linux" Spin Angers Sun Microsystems COO

Forbes' "Red Hat = Linux" Spin Angers Sun Microsystems COO

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  • Schwartz "Totally Crazy" to Raise Idea of Sun Buying Novell, Says Analyst

    Most presidents and COOs of tech companies are glad to be mentioned in Forbes or anywhere else. Not Sun's president and COO Jonathan Schwartz.

    The following September 1 headline did not make Sun's  Jonathan Schwartz happy at all: "Sun Micro Still A Potential Threat To Linux," it declared.

    Not so, says Schwartz, who promptly devoted an entire blog entry to refuting Forbes's implication.

    What sparked the Forbes report in the first place was the news from Credit Suisse First Boston that the recent run on Red Hat's stock price was "due at least in part to reports that Sun is changing its plan to encourage sales of its Solaris system on commodity, or non-Sun, hardware." The market, CSFB stated, was overreacting.  Many execution challenges remain for Sun, the research firm noted, "and we find no evidence that Sun's recent initiatives at the low end of the market are changing strategic decisions to migrate to Linux."

    What maddens Schwartz is the conflation, in such reports, of Linux and Red Hat. He points out, rightly: "Red Hat is not linux, despite what they say, and despite what the media (and IBM's ads) seem to conflate."

    "Sun is not a threat to GNU/linux," Schwartz declares. "Innovation is not a threat to GNU/linux. dTrace is not a threat to linux. Nor is Solaris 10, nor Janus. Nor is our new comp plan."

    He has described this new comp plan as "proving Sun's commitment to building Solaris as the cross platform standard."

    "We're now compensating Sun's hardware salesforce for selling Solaris on non-Sun hardware. So if a sales rep sells Solaris on Dell or IBM, or even HP (Xeon or Nocona), we pay them as if they sold the hardware. This is a huge culture change, obviously. It also focuses everyone on keeping customers happy - and driving hardware choice."

    The reason Schwartz insists on writing 'linux' instead of Linux is something he explained back in July, when he wrote:

    "Now, I put linux in quotes (with all deference and respect) because that one word wasn't just one product - it was, in effect, a reprise of the open source movement on which Sun was founded. And that movement yielded a blizzard of distros. There was (and still is, especially on desktops or clients) no single linux. But if you speak to as many customers as I do, you quickly see that neither they, nor ISV's can afford to support 100 different distributions in the datacenter."

    So his "Red Hat is not linux" refrain is nothing new. It just that when Forbes gets its wrong - and CNET, whose "Sun sales tactic targets Linux" headline also comes under his critical eye - Schwartz is just as unhappy in September as he was in July. Sun is not targeting anyone but Red Hat, which is a distro. ("Let's get specific," Schwarts urges. "Let's start calling a distro a distro.")

    "To my friends in the media," Schwartz thunders, "you are confusing a social movement with a single company - that social movement is all about choice, innovation and freedom. Not dominance or dependence."

    "In that light," Schwartz continues, "no innovation Sun delivers, in comp models or bits, can be anti-linux." 

    So Sun, in Schwartz's worldview is not a threat to Linux, nor is innovation a threat to Linux, nor dTrace nor Solaris 10 nor Janus.

    "They are a problem for Red Hat."

    It remains to be seen whether Forbes or CNET will reply to his broadside.

    Related Links:

  • Schwartz "Totally Crazy" to Raise Idea of Sun Buying Novell, Says Analyst

  • More Stories By Red Hat News Desk

    Red Hat News Desk trawls the world's news information sources and brings you timely updates on its flagship Red Hat Enterprise Linux as well as the company's other product lines including database, content, and collaboration management applications; server and embedded operating systems; and software - including its most recent virtualization offerings.

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    Most Recent Comments
    Anon 09/14/04 12:37:53 PM EDT

    I agree. Most linuxworld articles look like crap on mozilla (single word per line).

    jlbalder 09/14/04 09:46:21 AM EDT

    I use Mozilla. The coders of this article apparently don't check their layout against Mozilla. The layout was a column of words, mostly one word wide, making the article difficult to read. I checked it against MSIE, and it was fine. The entire world does not bow to MS, or, in some circles, the US. You wanted my feedback, that's my two cents.

    History 09/08/04 10:44:37 AM EDT

    Sun get money from M$ and fight to RedHat.
    So disappointed.

    Sun not spent their effort to fight for M$.
    At the end, M$ will get all the market from Sun.
    Sun's bonds holder what will you get at the end--> nothing.
    Sun's experts where you will go at the end? M$ give you money. There is your home.

    Tom Neilson 09/07/04 06:28:57 AM EDT

    Linus, thanks for the kernel!
    As for "distros", I'll stay with GNU/Linux and not be locked into one Kings' vision.

    With all the rants and raves said, all the truth known, there would be no media.

    kortex 09/05/04 11:52:32 AM EDT

    RedHat has done more for linux that any company out there, go dig up some stats about which distros corporations are adopting (READ: REPLACING WINDOWS SERVERS) the most. With all due respect - you are *not* going to find Gentoo or Slackware on that list. Suse is still a distant second. Where will Linux hurt the pocketbook of M$ the most? Corporate America, that's where. I'm sorry, but as a linux protagonist, that is where my priorities lie - working on curing the disease that is Microsoft

    Despite it's blunders - sociopolitical or otherwise - RedHat has done a LOT for linux and for that we owe them thanks if nothing else.

    Lisandro 09/05/04 11:51:47 AM EDT

    I have mixed feelings about RedHat. One one hand, they were one of the first that set the Linux snowball rolling, and have given a lot to the OS comunity. On the other hand, their Linux distributions were subpar, even with the amount of support they offered. For a while options like SuSE have been much much better. Anyway, everyone is entitled to f*ckups. I hope they get on their feet again and do better!

    amper 09/05/04 11:49:41 AM EDT

    Solaris is a very good OS with a huge amount of support in the community, and good installed base at the higher levels.

    If Sun could get Solaris running on Macs and IBM RS/6K (or whatever they're calling them these days???), it could open up many more doors for them, while still enabling them to possibly design their own brand workstations and desktops on the POWER/PPC platform to compete with both IBM and Apple. That could also mean Mac OS X support on a Sun box.


    SEE 09/05/04 11:47:28 AM EDT

    Sun's trying lots of things, hoping one sticks. If SPARC is in trouble, maybe Solaris can become the universal high-end Unix, running on any machine (that is, x86 and POWER). Maybe the Java Desktop System can secure Sun a slice of the Linux pie, even if Linux (backed by IBM) improves until leaves no room for Solaris. Maybe Java can save the company. Maybe if Sun open-sources key products, it can get the benefits of open development and still be the company people turn to for commercial support of them. Maybe . . .

    Who knows? Maybe something will work. It's worth a shot, at least.

    schwzrt 09/05/04 11:46:22 AM EDT

    i'm getting uneasy about Sun. Java open/closed/free/not-free/for-the-love-of-pete-whi ch-jre-j2se-jrs94x-should i get? Solaris open/closed/free/sorta/java-desktop? Heh, okay just poking fun there, but seriously, do they not seem a little like their top guys don't talk all that much and just make random announcements at this con or that?

    $$$un Micro 09/05/04 11:44:18 AM EDT

    Whatever Credit Suisse says Sun isn't going to die tommorow... the revenue off of DoD maintenance contracts alone will keep them on life support for another decade.

    Credit Suisse First Boston 09/05/04 07:20:30 AM EDT

    Sun can rant about Forbes if it likes. But what p.o.'d Schwartz really was that CSFB now rates Red Hat at "outperform" with a $27 target price while it rates Sun at "underperform" with a $3.25 target price.

    vance 09/05/04 07:16:47 AM EDT

    Check out Schwartz's blog too to find a link to a Wachovia Securities conference audio replay. It is pretty amusing to hear the Red Hat executive laugh about the $4m cost for certifying to Red Hat Linux.

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