Should Apple takeover Sun?

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.
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor

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.

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