Sun release claims Sun Ray shipments nearly double

Sun just issued a press release claiming that its shipments of Sun Ray "thin client" systems nearly doubled. The most exciting part of the announcement was that the document was sent not as a text message, not as an HTML formatted document, but as a Sun Staroffice document.

Sun just issued a press release claiming that its shipments of Sun Ray "thin client" systems nearly doubled. The most exciting part of the announcement was that the document was sent not as a text message, not as an HTML formatted document, but as a Sun Staroffice document. I'm sure that someone just forgot to save it in another format.

Since I have a Mac, a Linux system and a Windows XP system in my office, I had little trouble with the document. After reading it, I was reminded of the phrase “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” that is attributed to Benjamin Disraeli.

Snippet of the Sun statement

Here's what Sun's press release had to say:

Sun Microsystems, Inc. (NASDAQ: JAVA) today announced the company nearly doubled shipments of its Sun Ray™ thin clients during the fourth quarter of Sun's 2008 fiscal year, compared to the third quarter of its 2008 fiscal year. Sun Ray unit shipments are growing faster than the thin client industry at large, underscoring the increased appeal thin client and desktop virtualization solutions are experiencing among businesses and organizations. Contributing to this growth is strong market demand for Sun™ Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Software 2.0, which now ships on appoximately 25% of Sun Ray units since being introduced in March 2008, in addition to the unparralleled choice Sun Ray thin clients offer customers, enabling them to display Solaris™, Windows or Linux desktops on the same device.

Sun Ray virtual display clients, Sun Ray Sofware and Sun VDI Software 2.0 are key components of Sun's broad desktop virtualization offering, which are a set of core desktop technologies and solutions within Sun's xVM virtualization portfolio. More information on the Sun Ray family of virtual display clients can be found at www.sun.com/sunray.

Snapshot analysis

Can an industry observer take this statement as an indicator that organizations are rapidly embracing virtualized desktop environments? In two words, "not really."

While I'm happy to learn of Sun's success, the release points out strong growth without stating the number of shipments, the foundation for its claim. It's conceivable that Sun could have shipped only three Sun Ray devices in the third quarter of FY 2008 and  only one in the same quarter of the previous year and still make the same claim that they nearly doubled their hardware shipments.

This, however, is how some forms of marketing work. The goal is leaving an impression of growth and success without really saying anything conclusive. Sun certainly has achieved that in this press release. This is rather unfortunate. I really hold little doubt about Sun's success in selling its Sun Ray solutions into its own installed base. I would certainly believe that the company has been successful with a virtualized desktop approach.

If one considers who would be the first adopters of virtual access technology, people accessing applications running on a midrange system or mainframe system would be somewhere near the top of the list. They're already familiar with the benefits (and pain points) of working in that fashion. Users of PCs and Laptop systems have to be carefully taught about those benefits. Furthermore, in most cases, mobile staff members who need to be able to work while traveling, in customer's offices or in a hotel room somewhere would still need their Laptop computer. The emergence of powerful handheld devices has reduced, but certainly not eliminated that need.

So, what we all can take from this announcement is that Sun wants us to be impressed with the rapid pace of growth in the use of its Sun Ray hardware and its Sun Ray(TM) Software and Sun VDI Software 2. Since I've also heard statements about growth from others, such as HP, ClearCube and Citrix, that generally support Sun's claims that virtual desktop solutions, regardless of whether they're based upon access virtualization, application virtualization or virtual machine technology, are having an increasing impact on organizations' desktop strategies, I can believe there is a basis in fact for Sun's claims.

Is your organization developing or deploying a desktop virtualization strategy? If so, what technology is at the heart of that effort?

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