Can Sun execute on its open source strategy?

Can Sun execute on its open source strategy?

Summary: Jonathan Schwartz will be judged on his open source execution just as Carly Fiorina was judged on her absorption of Compaq.

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TOPICS: CXO, Open Source, Oracle
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jonathan Schwartz at supernova 2007 by dan farberThe purchase of mySQL completes Sun's transformation into an open source company.

It is, as the poker players say, "all in." (Picture by our own Dan Farber.)

Now the challenge is to execute. Jonathan Schwartz will be judged on his open source execution just as Carly Fiorina was judged on her absorption of Compaq. (We already know he has better hair.)

The question is, will open source be judged by the execution of Sun's strategy?

Many lazy analysts will say, "yes, of course." Sun has transformed itself around open source. It has put its hardware and software licenses under the GPL. It has thrown $1 billion at an open source start-up.

But not so fast. Execution is a complex business. Two companies may have the exact same strategy, one succeeding and the other failing, so what does that result say about the strategy? Nothing.

Sun has made its own tweaks to the strategy. It controls the open source projects its life depends upon. It has no Plan B, no second set of businesses it can rely upon if this fails.

These facts are a notable contrast with IBM, which has already proven it can execute on an open source strategy. Both companies have lost value over the last year, but IBM is down just 10%, while Sun is down nearly one-third.

So the pressure is on at Sun. But we should not confuse its fate with the fate of open source in general.

Topics: CXO, Open Source, Oracle

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