Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sun Buying MySQL

The New York Times reports that
Sun Microsystems … would spend $1 billion to buy MySQL, a Swedish company that is the world leader in open-source database software used by Internet powers like Google, Yahoo, MySpace and YouTube.
Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's CEO, is certainly committing Sun to being an open source software company. I don't know how that will fit into its continuing strategy of selling hardware.

I no longer have a clear sense of how to think about Sun as a company. What do you look to it for? It seems to me that this will be a significant challenge for Sun — to define itself as a brand. That seems like an awfully trendy thing to say, but I think that how Sun is perceived will be important to its future. Apple, for example, is transforming itself from a computer company to a consumer company in the realm of digital media. That's probably not the right description, but I think Steve Jobs knows the image he wants to create for Apple — and he is doing it quite well. I don't know where Jonathan Schwartz wants to take Sun. This isn't to say that he's doing the wrong thing, only that I don't see where he's going. I like Sun, and I hope that Schwartz is successful in his transformation.
Further thoughts. How about open sourcing their hardware as well! Of course they can't give it away. But they can open source the design, and they can arrange to make the hardware itself available at cost. If the price is low enough, that might attract enough independent users to make Sun a competitor to other general purpose platforms. (Now they are just competitors as corporate servers.) There is still money to be made in support, which is what their corporate customers want to pay for anyway.

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