Last night at a Sun event featuring Tim Bray and Mike Arrington talking about Web 2.0, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz made a brief appearance. I asked him about how Sun is faring in convincing startup companies and larger firms to adopt Sun products. Speaking about the rough times in the post-bubble debacle, Schwartz said, "We have a little bit of the 'what doesn't kill us makes us stronger gene' at Sun." That gene is expressed in customer meetings by sitting down, shutting up and listening, he said. "We are trying to work on our listening gene."Schwartz acknowledged that the hardest sell is to people who were familiar with the company long ago when the company wasn't on the upswing. Sun is trying to reach out to startups (defined as in business less than four years, fewer than 150 employees and based in the U.S.) as a way to engage the next generation of infrastructure consuming companies, and offering try and buy programs for hardware systems. Sun has shipped 5,000 systems via the program, half to new customers, Schwartz said.
Commenting on the recent large industry acquisitions, Schwartz said that WebEx (acquired by Cisco) and Tellme (acquired by Microsoft) are big Sun customers, as well as tiny Five Across, which was also acquired by Cisco.
Sun's stock price has been trending upwards, and would seem to correlate with what Schwartz said he found in checking Google Trends for keywords associated with Sun--such as NetBeans, GlassFish and Niagara--are up and to the right. "Word of mouth is a way more efficient than buying ad words," he concluded. Based on the Google Trends chart below, it's unclear just high and to the right the keywords are trending.