My hat off to Jonathan Schwartz

Jonathan Schwartz is now the CEO of Sun Microsystems, but he continues to blog. And Schwartz is opening his company even further by allowing you and me to directly comment on all Sun products on the Web. It will be interesting to see how this experiment evolves. But read more...
Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive

Even if Technorati tracks more than 40 million blogs, this new medium has not been widely adopted by well-established brands -- except by some high-tech companies. Jonathan Schwartz was #2 at Sun Microsystems when he launched his blog almost two years ago (check this former story for more). Now that he's the CEO, he continues to blog about his new job or how Sun has to eliminate more than 5,000 jobs. This is at the same time refreshing and encouraging -- except maybe for the employees losing their jobs. But Schwartz is opening his company even further by allowing you and me to directly comment on all Sun products on the Web. It will be interesting to see how this experiment evolves. But read more...

Before going further about these experiments at Sun, please read some of Schwartz's recent comments on what he thinks about Scott McNealy, his former boss (April 25, 2006), what represents blogging for a CEO (April 30, 2006) or how he analyzed the changes which forced the company to eliminate -- at least 5,000 jobs(May 31, 2006).

After reading Schwartz's thoughts, you'll probably admit that he's probably unique today.

And in a world where many companies are almost paralyzed when they think about how their customers can openly talk about their products, he's even going further, allowing not only Sun's customers, but everyone, to rate Sun products. Below are selected excerpts from this column, "Sunlight is the Best Informant" (June 2, 2006).

We know the most valued information travels by word of mouth. Through blogs, on-line reviews, or other on-line conversations. Or "kneecap to kneecap," as we sit across the table from customers in our briefing centers. And frankly, the most valuable information about Sun doesn't come from Sun, it comes from other customers.

So how can you do this?

[You'll] see something very interesting next week start to appear on Sun's web pages and throughout our on-line store. You'll start to see product reviews written by users. You'll see user defined ratings, right on our products. Just like book or product reviews at Amazon. We're starting with just a few products, but it'll ultimately extend all the way up to our highest end enterprise offerings.

Dan Farber, in his Between the Lines blog for ZDNet, was one of the first to comment this new Sun's initiative in "Schwartz increases sunlight on sun.com" (June 4, 2006).

What will be interesting is to see how Sun handles the trolls, who will certainly flame away on sun.com. Schwartz says that customers will trust the opinions of the users more Sun's spiel, and he's right–as long as their is transparency among users, such as using their real names, and that they actually have first-hand knowledge of the products.
Schwartz acknowledges the risks, including that competitors would take advantage of the openness to trash Sun products. He concludes that the bigger risk is leaving customers, who aren't aware of what Sun has to offer, in the dark. "Transparency's at least a part of the solution. If not an outright competitive weapon." Schwartz opines in the blog post. Let the conversations begin...

And here is how Schwartz details the biggest risks caused by this initiative.

The far bigger risk is that we'd meet another customer surprised by what we had to offer. Unaware that our systems were 5 times as energy efficient as our competitors. That Solaris was free, open source, and available on Dell or HP. Or that Thumper was about to reset the economics of the storage industry.

Now, let's go to the practical details. How do you comment on a Sun product?

It's easy, but it could be easier... First, you have to go to the Sun Products page. Then, you'll have to choose one, and -- if you're lucky -- you'll see a "Perspectives" tab for the product. Click on it, and in a new window, you'll see a "Customer Rating & Reviews" tab. Click on it, and write your own review.

For example, here are two links to comments written about the Star Office 8 software or the Sun Fire T2000 Server.

Please note that not all product pages include this possibility -- as of today -- and that your comments will need to be approved before being published. But it seems to me that it's only to avoid spam or illegal contents, not a way to avoid criticism.

Finally, if you want to read what other bloggers from Sun are thinking and writing about, here is their hub, blogs.sun.com.

Sources: Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog; and other web sites

You'll find related stories by following the links below.

Editorial standards