In an interview this week with News.com, Sun CEO Scott McNealy was asked to define his company's strategy. Here's how he responded:
I'll start with the vision. We believe we're moving out of the Ice Age, the Iron Age, the Industrial Age, the Information Age, to the participation age. You get on the Net and you do stuff. You IM (instant message), you blog, you take pictures, you publish, you podcast, you transact, you distance learn, you telemedicine. You are participating on the Internet, not just viewing stuff. We build the infrastructure that goes in the data center that facilitates the participation age. We build that big friggin' Webtone switch. It has security, directory, identity, privacy, storage, compute, the whole Web services stack. We build that infrastructure piece.
We have a mission, and that's make money and grow. That allows us to realize our cause, and that is to eliminate the digital divide. We believe our strategy, way more than a PC on everybody's desk or a mainframe everywhere, is the way to make that happen.
We have a strategy that's very different from everybody else's, and it's community development. The way we say that is with the S curve in all our new literature. It's not for Scott, it's not for Sun, it's for share. We're grabbing that word and saying, of anybody, we own the word. We own that space.
McNealy said the company's cause is to eliminate the digital divide and that the strategy is community development. "We own the word 'share'," McNealy said. I can understand having a corporate cause that favorably impacts the world order and recognizing that empowering the community of online users with tools and technology is important.
As a strategy, it is more refreshing than the typical ‘we are customer focused…our goal is to satisfy the needs of our customers.’ What company doesn’t want to satisfy customers? But, something is missing from the company that hasn’t shed its Berkeley, California counterculture roots. I know McNealy is doing his usual embellishment is saying he owns the word 'share'—unless he means the tens of millions of dollars spenton the recent ad campaign. But, do 'share' and 'community development' resonate with financial institutions, telcos and other enterprises who are customers of Sun’s infrastructure products and services (which is the company's business).
I can imagine the executive team in meetings desperate to come up with a differentiating theme to separate Sun from its competitors. IBM owns 'on-demand,' Microsoft owns…Windows and HP is equally challenged with 'adaptive enterprise.' Why not take the high road. The amount of human interaction and data on the Web is increasing exponentially. It intersects with Sun's long-time motto, "the network is the computer." Add the au courant participation meme connect to chipping away at the digital divide, and Sun is a visionary thought leader, and thought leaders get more attention than laggards. Sun isn't offering anything different than before it discovered sharing—the company profits by powering the data centers so that users can transact and interact online. What's the alternative strategy to community development? I don’t know, and it's not my job, but in the end Sun succeeds or fails based on its products…not on whether it 'gets' Web 2.0 or 3.0 (the Web as THE platform) better than others. However, as my friend Steve Gillmor says, those who don’t get Web 2.0, 3.0 etc. will be left behind…