Should Apple takeover Sun?

Should Apple takeover Sun?

Summary: IBM's fizzled purchase of Sun Microsystems is showing signs of being on-again, off-again, as reports say Sun is still waving a flag in Big Blue's direction. However, some Apple fans want Cupertino to buyout the enterprise technology maker.


IBM's fizzled purchase of Sun Microsystems is showing signs of being on-again, off-again, as reports say Sun is still waving a flag in Big Blue's direction.  However, some Apple fans want Cupertino to buyout the enterprise technology maker.

As I mentioned in Takeover Fever: The Apple-Sun saga, written when IBM's Sun bid was hot, Apple and Sun have a long history of merger discussions.  At various times, the pair were considered perfect fits. But no longer.

Reader Juan Madrigal laid out the talking points of a takeover in an email. He said that what Apple lacks, Sun has and vice-versa.

Sun is strong in the enterprise — their storage and server offerings power a lot of Fortune 500 companies. Sun's has great technology and some of the best engineers. Apple can use them to solidify Mac OS X by merging the best from Solaris.

For example, Mac OS X has no built-in virtualization. Solaris has Zones and Containers; Linux has its VServer/Xen strategy, which they are building into the kernel; and Microsoft is working on its Hypervizor, while Apple seems to fiddling their thumbs.

Sun already has a solid support infrastructure that could really boost Apple's lack of enterprise support and offerings.

Sun's storage goes hand-in-hand with Apple's creative products. Apple could really start penetrating more big time FX/production houses by integrating ZFS and Sun Storage with Final Cut Server, versus what they currently offer with Promise RAIDs (Promise doesn't have the credibility or support that Sun offers for storage).

Sun's open source involvement would be a big plus for Apple and would boost their image on the OSS side of things. MySQL is great to have — imagine if Apple brings in Filemaker and merges it with the MySQL team. They'll be able to make more head way into the database market for sure.

Other Sun offerings that can breathe life into Apple products: Sun Java and Apple WebObjects, Sun Grid Engine and Apple Xgrid, OpenOffice and Sun Office, Sun Sparc and Apple's PA Semi Team, Solaris and Mac OS X. Solaris is the kernel that most [others] try to mimic, it scales and is much more stable then Mac OS X, although, the GUI needs work. The list goes on.

Sun needs marketing, Apple needs to get into the enterprise and really simplify things for IT. They can help each other on both sides.

In addition, there wouldn't be any anti-trust/monopoly issues regarding such a merger/buyout versus, say, if IBM were to buy them.

If anything, it would really be interesting. Apple could really clean up and organize Sun's executives and bring energy back into Sun and give them guidance. Tim Cook is great at operations.

I really don't see any negatives for a merger/buyout between Sun and Apple and plenty of positives for both.

Strange, I see plenty of negatives and few positives.

What Madrigal and the other Apple cheerleaders raising the Sun flag miss is that there really isn't any pressing business or strategic need for Apple to go through the expense and pain of a buyout. Where is the technology, business, executive or segment in this list that can't be bought elsewhere and for less money? After all, in this vision, Apple would be buying the whole company.

Let's look at a few points:

Apple doesn't need to be fighting it out in the data center. The company is finding some success with its current enterprise strategy: providing excellent client machines, and departmental-level, SMB servers that are easy to configure and manage.

Apple is no doubt working on virtualization strategy, which is currently a third-party opportunity. But is this a pressing need? Where's the advantage for Apple's bottom line in the near term?

After a number of tries, Cupertino has passed on being a storage vendor. It's a market that is becoming increasingly commoditized and filled with brands that have a better position than Apple. Where's the win here?

As for Apple's place in the open-source software market, how is this is a business objective for Apple? Besides, it already contributes to many projects.

Solaris 10 technologies such as the ZFS file system and DTrace are already supported by or found in Mac OS X. If Apple needs to breathe life into the OS X kernel, it can buy or license specific technology from Sun or elsewhere. It doesn't need to buy all of Sun for some kernel optimizations. In addition, the time and effort to integrate such fundamental technologies is always underestimated. Only the Internet works on Internet time scales.

Finally, there's no upside to a buyout that makes a company "interesting." As we all know, Apple is already interesting enough.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Operating Systems, Oracle, Servers, Software, Storage

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  • No. But Microsoft should.

    Just think about it. MS owning java and OpenOffice means they have absolute control over Computer Language and office world. And absolute control means money. We all know it.
    • Over my dead body!

      Firstly, a Microsoft acquisition wouldn't even make it past the first anti-trust hurdle. Secondly, Sun is the epitomy of an anti-Microsoft company and every engineer would leave the company if such a thing happened. I was a long time Microsoft advocate, but now I can honestly say that I ALMOST can't stand them.
      General C#
      • Naw, money talks.

        The folks at Sun would be thrilled to know they still have a pay check.

        But be that as it may, Sun has nothing MS really needs.
        • They do

          "Sun has nothing MS really needs."

          MS could use some of Sun's credibility in the operating system category.
          Tim Patterson
          • They do, cont...

            They could also use the ZFS file system. They currently have no self-repairing, durable file system. The kernel engineers would be a nice addition to their staff, too. They could start from scratch and engineer the eventual complete replacement for Windows.
      • Similar feelings about MS...

        I've been a MS user since MS-DOS, Multiplan, and Windows 1.0. Their crippleware marketing strategy for Vista and now Win7 was the last straw for me. I can't stand them. I switched all my systems to Open Office and won't be buying Win7 upgrades for any of them.

        MS could use the Sun ZFS file system and those kernel engineers, but I think you're right. None of them would probably want to work for MS the way they are now.
    • NO to that too! Both would be disasters!

      Sun should go to IBM or Google. MS or Apple would ruin it. MS or Apple would make it proprietary closed down garbage. Java would no longer be cross platform, Solaris would be killed, and anything that worked on Linux would instantly stop working.

      This would be a disaster. No!
      • A "disaster" for open source maybe.

        But not to the companies involved.
        • Right..

          Sun being reduced to an insignificant niche Mac market? Apple having to enter the enterprise space where they have zero respect?

          Furthermore trying to kill OSS is just evil. I know this is the same country where selling variable rate mortgages and screwing over hard working people to make a buck is considered ok, but at some point there must be a limit.
  • Sun = Wang Labratories!!!!

    I completely agree with you. Sun is dead weight! This is a company that can't get its head out of its a**.

    Apple is doing everything right, and Sun is doing everything wrong. What people fail to realize is that Sun has become the Wang of the post .COM era.

    Many might not remember Wang. Wang was a company very much like Juan is described Sun. In fact if you read about Wang it reads very much like Sun...

    That should be a big hint to anybody who thinks Sun can be salvaged...
    • Oh I remember Wang....:P

      I was working in a local tech shop and my phone rang. Picked it up and
      did my normal greeting followed by the "can I help you?" Then I took a
      quick gulp of my coffee. A woman's voice on the other end said "I think I
      broke my husbands Wang" Coffee goes everywhere.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
  • Oracle should buy Sun.

    I tried to imagine Sun and Apple together and it just doesn't work. Unless Apple is serious about going corporate, I don't think they'll mesh well. Besides Apple may be a bit damaging by putting the proprietary hooks into some technologies.

    IBM and Sun makes sense, but there's too much overlapping.

    Oracle makes the most sense. They could really add a lot of punch to MySQL, and Larry was speaking about providing support for Linux, but Solaris should fit in as well. Oracle will be able to add the middle tier that Sun needs.
    General C#
    • That makes a whole lot more sense. nt

      • I love it when I'm right

        <a href="">Oracle buys Sun</a>
        General C#
    • Agreed.

      Oracle would be much more suitable. Apple just
      doesn't have the right mindset.
    • I totally agree!

      I couldn't imagine about Apple buying Sun, either.

      But one comment that I'd be concern about is that Oracle does have a SQL product. Wouldn't Sun sell back the mySQL to its founders who created mySQL? That way, Oracle can buy Sun.

      I think this is asking to do away with mySQL, which is an open source SQL database server.
      Grayson Peddie
    • Is there any value

      That is the question; their SPARC products are slowly dying off and the
      cost of maintaining it will go up exponentially as processor designs
      become more and more complicated. They don't have the economies
      of scale to maintain processor design and implementation for the long
      run so any SPARC stuff that might be an asset today will be a liability
      tomorrow. Oh, and I don't suddenly predict a triumphant return to
      SPARC via a massive R&D injection from Oracle either.

      Everything else has less and less value; if they wanted an OpenSolaris
      based distribution nothing is stopping them from getting involved
      with OpenSolaris rebranding it as OracleOS Powered by OpenSolaris.
      Java is opensource but still requires the closed source components to
      be replaced (Sun couldn't opensource those components because the
      respective holders refused to allow it) so you're not acquiring Java
      because the code is open source and the specifications are controlled
      by the Java specifications group that includes Oracle already - but
      Oracle might be able to finally push some ideas through the process
      alot quicker but I doubt one can put a $7billion price tag on
      something like that.

      The problem is that there is very little value left in Sun; the longer Sun
      leave it the lower the return shareholders will get. Their customer
      based is shrinking, their products are slowly dying the death of a lack
      of direction and execution.
  • Should McDonald's buy Dairy Queen?

    It would make about as much sense as Apple:Sun.

    Setting aside the culture clash (Apple and Sun have radically different priorities and incompatible ways of doing things), neither company has any need of what the other would bring to the table.

    They play in different markets with completely different types of customers. I don't see any synergy there.

    If someone other than IBM is to buy Sun, it will probably be Oracle. The Oracle DB is the primary Solaris application, in my experience, and owning the OS and hardware piece of the stack would be good for Oracle.

    Just my $0.02 USD based on 30+ years in the field, and -- as always -- your opinion may well vary.

  • RE: Should Apple takeover Sun?

    Honestly I hate to say it but I think Sun is a big anchor and anyone that tries to latch on to Sun risks riding that anchor down to the bottom.

    I do think of the people mentioned Oracle probably makes the most sense but honestly I think it's too late for even that. Oracle is promoting Linux now and I think from a cost perspective this makes more sense than Sun and I don't see how owning Sun helps Oracle sell more DB licenses or E-Business licenses (or visa-versa).

    As for Apple the only reason for them to buy Sun would to try and get a foothold in the enterprise but I think Apple owning Sun would tend to hurt Sun more than help Apple.
  • There is still some value in SUN.

    But who ever gets it will have to do a MAJOR operation. A
    quick decisive cut of the waist. Cut away the old habits,
    the bad habits, the poor decisions and the mind set that is
    dragging that which still does work down with it. I don't
    even know if the Sun name should survive. At this point it
    would seem to be as large if not larger a bad thing that a
    good thing. Do people heard the name Sun and think
    "success" or "failure" now?

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn