Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sun can still do it ...

There have been a lot of folks blogging about the Sun, IBM fiasco that has unfolded over the last few days. Here are links to just a few:
With all the comments and rumors floating around, this has turned out to be one big soap opera! The business world is replete with such drama - going back to John Sculley and Steve Jobs to the Carly Fiorina and Walter Hewlett splat to the more recent Steve Ballmer and Jerry Yang exchange. Just as Apple did not die after Steve Jobs left and HP did not collapse under the weight of the Board room drama and Yahoo continued to survive after Microsoft withdrew its offer, I believe Sun will come out from under this despite opinions to the contrary. In all cases , it required a change in leadership. Mark Hurd has proven to be a good fit for HP and Carol Bartz seems to be making the right moves at Yahoo.

There have been vituperative remarks against Jonathan Schwartz in public forums of late asking for his resignation. In his defence, Schwartz inherited Sun with a lot of problems. The previous leaders (Ed Zander, Janpieter Sceerder, et al.) had run the company to the ground after the dotcom boom. Despite that, Schwartz brought back the sense of innovation to Sun. I still believe that his single minded focus on open sourcing software and monetizing on training and support is the right strategy if it is executed properly. Unfortunately, Schwartz's leadership did not translate to increased sales for Sun. Contrast this with Mark Hurd's approach. Hurd chose to focus on numbers and execution. Perhaps that should be the role of a CEO. Apparently, McNealy did not pass that memo to Schwartz.

So, Schwartz needs to go - at the very least to be the sacrificial lamb. Sun should put its focus on its core strengths and execute that to perfection. I don't believe McNealy is the man for this job. The reasons he handed the reins to Schwartz are still valid - he has "emotional strings attached". I believe that Sun can still do it because of its engineering prowess. They need to find the right CEO soon. Perhaps they should approach Arun Sarin or Vivek Paul ...

3 comments:

Neeraj said...

While I may agree with you on some points on this post, I am surprised that you level the failures against Zander and such and fail to mention McNealy's refusal to make one deep cut when required. The fact continues to remain that Schwartz's "Open Everything" and money will flow eventually strategy - however philosophically charming it may be - has not / does not / will not translate into $$$. When he still cannot rally his own troops to believe in that, how does he expect to have the market get it? It is easier to say he "inherited" all of it, fact remain he has done almost "nothing" to improve it... On the contrary, the company is being run into ground on his watch, not Zander and some others you mention.

Prakash said...

The "blame" for the failure of Sun does fall on the shoulders of Zander et al. They were riding the dotcom wave and decided to place their focus on sales and marketing rather than R&D. If Janpieter has chosen to OpenSource the "crown jewels", we may not have seen the rise and widespread acceptance of Linux. This is the "mess" that Schwartz inherited.

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