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Is IBM on a Strategic Path to Control Java? 285

nightspd writes "David Berlind of Cnet has written a series of articles over at ZDNet about IBM's return to market dominance, including this one titled When Will IBM Buy Sun? It's a VERY interesting read and a very interesting predition, and poses a question. With the mega-merger of Compaq and Hewlett-Packard going forward, can we expect other possible mega-mergers down the line in the tech arena? Is a IBM buyout of Sun possible and/or viable?"
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Is IBM on a Strategic Path to Control Java?

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  • by dnaumov ( 453672 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:46AM (#3315865)
    I wouldn't count on that seeing as just a few days ago IBM reported that it isn't doing as good as they hoped it was. Their income came out much lower then expected.
    • Big Blue's first profit warning since what 1991? Bah this isn't gonna stop them just make sure they are careful about their accounting...

      • Yeah. IBM reported a 10% drop in revenue, but they are still quite profitable, predicting between 66 and 73 cents a share for the quarter.

        The HP/Compaq merger is between two companies that have had quite hard times recently. IBM's current dip could perhaps motivate a big merger rather than work against it.

        Heh, if they merge, they ought to consider bringing in Apple and Palm at the same time. Can you imagine that behemoth? The Anti-Microsoft.

        • *drool*

          I can just imagine it: A company whose products are great (not just passable or good), well integrated, works against Microsoft, and has embraced (not extended) the open source ideal.

          The dramatist in me would love to see it, if only for the epic struggle between two modern giants. But the pragmatist sees trading one monopoly for another, even if the new monopoly does have better products and some form of open-source.
          • and has embraced (not extended) the open source ideal.

            Only in that they support Linux. Have you ever used WebSphere (IBM's J2EE platform). It has so many proprietary hooks that this so called "vendor locking" that Java avoids is moot. You are very locked into WebSphere if you use what you paid big bucks for. This doesn't sound like the "open source ideal".
          • Too many of you people are too young. You think that MS is and has always been the monopoly that it is. You guys all forget about the IBM monopoly that was. Desktops that cost $5000+, very expensive EVERYTHING... Then competition fixed the problem. If we go back to an IBM controlled monopoly, things will be no better. Hell, in ten years we'll all be 'covertly' using MS software to 'fight' the machine that is IBM.

            The players change, but the game? Not so much.
        • There would be no advantage whatsoever for Apple in a merger with IBM or anyone else, and it would likely be counterproductive. Apple's culture is too different from the rest of the industry. And IBM has not been successful with hardware on the desktop, nor are they very interested in it.

          I understand your desire for competition to Microsoft, but another monopoly is not the answer. It is important that there are smaller companies like Apple that try different things. Computing should not be reduced to a two-party system between AIX and Windows.

          • I agree with what you say. I'm not really advocating these mergers. It'd be fun to watch this in the same way as it's fun to watch Godzilla and Mothra fight it out. Of course, Tokyo always gets trampled underfoot.

            I note that IBM is pretty careful about mergers, actually. The only ones I can think of are Rolm and Lexmark, but they kept the brands separate.

            There are some synergies between IBM and Apple. Apple's microprocessor architecture is controlled by IBM/Motorola. And, IBM is a big backer of Palm. I would expect that IBM would buy up Palm before allowing them to disappear. IBM is heavily invested in the Palm architecture as their mobile solution.

            I'm not sure that the proposed merger of IBM/Sun/Apple/Palm would be a monopoly. Maybe in the Enterprise space. Certainly not in the handheld or desktop space.

            Monopoly or not, the integration problems would be considerable and it would probably suppress innovation across the new divisions.

            • What short memories you people have! IBM and Apple tried this once before, and it was a bomb. Doesn't anyone else remember Taligent []?
              • I remember Taligent. That was hardly a merger. That was just an effort to jointly develop an OS. Like many big software projects, it bombed.

                IBM/Motorola and Apple work together on the PPC architecture, and that's not a bomb. Your point is?

                • IBM/Motorola and Apple work together on the PPC architecture, and that's not a bomb.

                  That's debatable. Plot the performance of PPC chips over the last 5 years and they will be well under what Moore's law predicts. Take the G4, it was introduced almost 3 years ago at 500MHz; it should be close to 2GHz by now yet it only recently managed half that. Especially compared to how much performance Intel has gotten out of the fundamentally inferior x86 architecture, the PPC has been something of a disappointment so far.

                  Having said that, my TiBook still kicks ass.

              • Yeah! I forgot that one.

                Kept that as a separate brand also! It seems that IBM avoids the integration of corporate cultures by running their acquisitions as separate companies.

                Hmmm... could you imagine their buying Sun and running it as a separate company? Hard to imagine, really. Now, Apple and Palm, that'd make sense, but there's too much overlap between IBM and Sun. If they were to buy Sun and try to run it at arms length I'd expect them to ditch AIX. Hmmm... might move all their Linux work into the Sun division also...

    • IBM is already seriously in bed with SUN: they fab most of SUN's serious chips, including CPUs and are key to SUN's success. So IBM has a heck of a lot of visibility into SUN's future prospects and can make an educated guess on whether or not they want to acquire SUN.

      Remember Cyrix? IBM used to fab their chips and there was some speculation on whether IBM would buy them and come into the x86 market. But IBM had visibility into Cyrix's future *and* visibility into AMD's. So was it a good decision to pass on buying Cyrix? I think so.

      My point is that IBM could buy SUN if they wanted and if they thought it would be helpful to them. But my view is that IBM is deemphasizing hardware and investing in services, so it's unlikely they'll drop the cash into buying a hardware company.
      • by Tower ( 37395 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @10:15AM (#3316072)
        Actually, TI was fabbing the UltraSPARC IIIs (check out the news items about the L2 cache issues, etc)...

        In fact, TI has fabbed for Sun since 1988... you can find it in the press releases on Sun's site, or google for it.
        • Didn't IBM fab their memory chips or something? I seem to remember some problem that Sun blamed on some chips fabbed by IBM.

          I just looked it up, McNealy did the blaming:

          Q: We reported last year about the problem with the external memory cache on UltraSPARC II chips that was causing a lot of Sun's Ultra Enterprise servers to crash. Is that something you're still grappling with, or is it history?

          A: We're no longer buying IBM SRAM [static RAM]. They were the biggest source of the problem for us. They knew about it before, and they didn't tell us . . . But IBM sure made a big point of telling all of our customers about it a year and a half ago. But we don't have that issue anymore. We designed IBM out and put [error checking and correcting logic] across the entire cache architecture.

          This was in Computerworld [] last December.

      • Like someone else mentioned, Sparc-chips definitely are not manufactured by IBM. IBM is actually playing with both Sun and Microsoft, pitting them against each other. With Sun the name of the game is Java, with Microsoft XML-Soap-Web services.

        It's the good old "Divide et Impera" game. Works ok as Sun and Microsoft do not play nice together, no matter what the issue. :-)

        Finally, the feasibility of buyout is hard to measure. Sun's market cap is around 30 billions, but that would skyrocket if IBM was to try takeover. Plus, Sun has couple of billions in cash reserves, so it could (probably would) choose to fight against hostile takeover too. IBM might be able to get financing... or maybe not. It's a huge company, but we are talking about huge amounts too.

        And last but not least; believe it or not, Sun and IBM are almost as bitterly engaged in battle as are Sun and Microsoft. Combining the companies, thus, would not be an easy task after buyout... see how easy it is with neutral comps like Compaq and HP. :-)

    • Their income came out much lower then expected.

      making 18 billion rather than 19 billion is *much* lower?

  • Will IBM Buy Sun? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tower ( 37395 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:48AM (#3315878)
    As if the FTC/SEC/EU would let that happen... since HP and Compaq effectively decided to self-diminish, the "merger" of the two largest commercial Un*x server companies would probably raise a few eyebrows... something about a Parker Brothers' game, I believe...
    • I dont quite understand how Yahtzee can help them?

      Oh I get it [] According to the blurb:

      "The unique combination of luck and strategy..."

      Oh, maybe they were talking about Accenture...
    • Two companies merging and controlling 50+% of the unix server market (and a chunk of the workstation market) would worry regulatory commities. Probably either American or EU groups would put enough restrictions on a merger to make the parties want to walk.

      The next question is how would that happen? IBM probably can't afford to outright purchase Sun. So a merger would be needed. Would Sun, whose orginal leadership still remains, be willing to roll into big blue? Things would have to get a lot worse for them I'd guess.

  • by DeadBugs ( 546475 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:51AM (#3315901) Homepage
    For those who have not already checked it out, IBM's little tank simulation program for teaching java, RoboCode [] has hit version 1.0
  • by fooguy ( 237418 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:51AM (#3315906) Homepage
    You know, just because Ziff Davis became the media giant it is because of the PC doesn't mean the world revoles around PCs.

    Yes IBM does well with the Thinkpad division, and yes I'm sure there are sour grapes over OS/2, but do you think anyone is crying that they're not selling PCs at a profit of 6 cents per machine? They own Lexmark! They own Lotus! They make a fortune selling AS/400s and RS/6000s and Z/90s (if that's what they're called this week).

    There is a small tug of war over Java, no denying that, but why would IBM buy Sun other than for their customers? They are two completely different companies in mindset and direction. You think HP and Compaq will be a difficult merger?

    There are also Sun's partners to consider. Larry Ellison is not going to like it if Sun buys IBM, since Oracle ties itself so closely to Java these days, and IBM just bought Informix. I would rather see Oracle and Sun merge and split the software division.

    Interesting conjecture on the part of the author, but I think it's pretty unlikely.

    • NYSE:LXK (Score:2, Informative)

      by lseltzer ( 311306 )
      Lexmark is a public company. IBM doesn't own even a substantial part of it.
    • by CynicTheHedgehog ( 261139 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @10:03AM (#3316005) Homepage
      You seem to forget a few facts:

      • IBM is still a large contender in the server market
      • IBM has put billions into open source development, including their own implementation of the JDK, compiler, and clustered virtual machines
      • IBM favors Linux and has partnerships with SuSE and Redhat (perhaps others)
      • Oracle produces versions of their products to run on almost every platform, and uses Java in most of their client applications

      There you have it. Sun is in direct competition with IBM on three fronts (hardware, operating system, and software), and I'm sure Ellison could care less who buys his product, as long as it's selling. Obviously IBM wants some control over Java, and Sun isn't playing nicely. I'm kind of on the edge of my seat myself.
    • "I would rather see Oracle and Sun merge and split the software division."


      Oracle makes a damn fine database.

      Other than that their software makes the dead cry. Oracle Financials is the ugliest monster I have ever seen. Their java software they provide for administering their database looks like beta code from the java 1.0.4 days.

      This single sentance about Oracle and Sun merging. That's terrifying to me. IBM and SUN, ok, interesting to think about, maybe not likely, maybe not a good thing. But Oracle and Sun, gawds! Not likely either (cross my heart hope to die) but eeeeeeeeewwwwwww.

      If Oracle did buy Sun I wonder how we would license our server hardware. "Well sir, you take the transfer rate of the bus and multiply that by the amount of ram and then add two point five times the disks space connected to the server and then you add the number of mega hertz of your CPU's multiplied by the number CPU's times 10. Unless you have the server in a cluster in which case you multiply this number by one point two and there are convienence fees if you ever want to put it in a rack."
    • I agree very much. Sun's philosophy is to market one line of computers that are very highly inter-compatible (Netra X1 with 1 CPU ---> Sun Fire 15K with >100 CPUs). Where else can you develop software on a personal workstation and feel comfortable that it'll run smoothly on the big-iron servers down the hall? I'm sure Sun is introducing the low-end Intel-based servers with big butterflies in their stomachs (it's sort of like a world-class French vineyard beginning to distribute Kentucky jug wine on the side).

      If IBM bought Sun, I would fear that Sun's brand would just get bastardized, where purple Sun-brand Windows PCs are being sold in volume discount (yuck!). I just don't see IBM keeping both SPARC and the Power chips going. Solaris would go by the wayside, too. This would piss off quite a few Sun customers...perhaps SGI would make a comback due to the exodus from IBM?

      • I agree very much. Sun's philosophy is to market one line of computers that are very highly inter-compatible (Netra X1 with 1 CPU ---> Sun Fire 15K with >100 CPUs). Where else can you develop software on a personal workstation and feel comfortable that it'll run smoothly on the big-iron servers down the hall? I'm sure Sun is introducing the low-end Intel-based servers with big butterflies in their stomachs (it's sort of like a world-class French vineyard beginning to distribute Kentucky jug wine on the side).

        That is how they work the past they did make a 386 machine (the Sun 386i I think; as well as several PC-on-a-card products). In fact before they adopted the "all the wood behing one arrowhead" policy they made 680x0 machines, SPARCs, and the 386i all at pretty much the same time!

        Of corse their 386 system only ran SunOS...or at least it was a pain to run anything else...and I think it had a "real" ROM monitor and all. Does anyone remember what the expansion bus was though, it was years before PCI.

    • AHH! You said the AS word! No, I'm done with that machine. hehe. See im a real programmer. I don't use the PDM andymore. hehehe. im ok. really.
      No!! No!
      NO GOD NO! I don't write RPG anymore! My new lanuguage is free format! HAHA I have more the 6 characters for varible names and I can use CASE!! Haha!
    • They own Lexmark!

      No, they don't. Lexmark is a publicly-traded company [] with some close business links to IBM.

  • Obviously the writer does not realize how big IBM is already! A lot of those other companies are merging just to compete with IBM as it is right now! IBM is kicking everybody's ass without SUN.
    • Re:come on (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Derkec ( 463377 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @11:12AM (#3316576)
      IBM isn't kicking everyone's ass. Their OS's are failing and so their moving to Linux. They are fighting tooth and nail with Sun in the server market; Sun still maintains a lead there. The list goes on. IBM is a very competitive company but isn't kicking everyone's ass.

      Except for Global Services. GS has the ability to come into an organization and keep on selling IBM goods and services until the customer runs out of money :) They kick ass; they get repeat business at low cost of aquisition; they are the reason IBM is sinking.
  • Yes. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:52AM (#3315913)
    And they'll open-source Java. And everyone will start coding their applications for the java virtual machine, and Microsoft will be like "shit!" and WINE will be like "okay, we can go home" and we'll be like "look, C#, it's not that I don't love you. But I'm not in love with you."

    fourth-quarter 2002. You heard it here first!

  • If IBM buys Sun and applies its marketing 'EXPERTISE', then we're going
    to see the demise of yet another product that 'could have been'. Think OS/2...

    As much great technology that comes out of IBM, they always screw it up when
    it comes to marketing..

  • name game (Score:2, Funny)

    by Mr.Strange ( 204044 )
    ..and the new Corporate name? SunBM?
  • This is pure speculation with no basis in reality. It is bad enough that zdnet rewards writers to fabricate this stuff, why should slashdot repeat it? All this does is reward zdnet by creating more hits for their advertising clients.
  • Oil & Water (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trix_e ( 202696 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:54AM (#3315931)
    There would be a *huge* culture clash trying to combine these two companies... much more than ever will happen with HPaq.

    IBM is a long way off from all white shirts all the time days, I'd suggest that Sun is much more conservative than IBM from a business perspective these days... Sure there are pockets of IBM that are still starched *way* too much, but overall they're quite innovative and nimble.

    Sun, while it pushes Java hard, it quite a proprietary company (note that Java is not open source), and IBM on the other hand, is willing to get into about any business that it feels like it can get a foothold in, and see what works out. It's services folks are often implementing all kinds of non-IBM technologies. Sun would *never* do that.

    I don't see it working... even if IBM is the acquirer, the culture mishmash would be a disaster.

    • note that Java is not open source

      Funny...I wonder what that source I downloaded from Sun was...sure looked like Java. Java might not be GPL, but it *is* open source.

      I think what you're referring to is that Java is still a very proprietary entity. The JCP is pretty much a sham for Sun to control the Java specification. Basically, anyone's free to look all they want, just don't touch.

      It's a good example to illustrate Stallman's Open Source != Free Software distinction.
    • IBM is less a single company than a banner under which a whole group of companies operates. Each division has a different culture and different goals. They sometimes even compete with each other.

      IBM is the only company that would make a microprocessor (the PowerPC) and then build desktops using the rival's processors (Intel). This is why it sometimes seems they support Linux, and sometimes not. Sun would be just another division in the mix.

      Not that I like the idea of a buyout. Diversity is good. And Sun standing alone is more independent and more likely to act differently.

  • A Possible Outcome (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spencerian ( 465343 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:55AM (#3315934) Homepage Journal
    While I don't think Sun would martyr itself just to challenge Microsoft, it's a good possibility that IBM could try to buy more Java rights or buy the technology outright from Sun, if a merger isn't in the cards.

    Java is a innovative (and I use this term judiciously) technology which Microsoft has not been able to successfully clone, copy, or kill, yet. It is Sun's current anchor for relevancy amongst its main competitors. I can't see Sun letting go Java without a lot of compensation or litigation.
  • AOL/TW (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BigBir3d ( 454486 )
    Considering how much money AOL/TW lost, and how painful the HP Compaq merger is becoming, I would think that IBM would want to stay away from mergers for a while.
  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:58AM (#3315961)
    Gee, IBM wants to take over the computer industry... Stop the presses!

    I have news for ZDNet... It is the fiduciary duty of every publicly owned corporation to attempt to gain a monopoly in every market it enters. It is not illegal to have a monopoly, just illegal to take advantage of that monopoly to retain and extend dominance.

    It should come as a surprise to no one that IBM is attempting to wring profit out of open source. What else to you expect it to do? IBM does not exist to promote free software. It exists to make money, and if free (beer or speech) software is a way to do that, so be it.

    And no, IBM will not be buying Sun any time soon. They have plenty of money dedicated to continuing the improvement of the already quite fine pSeries/RS6k boxes. What do they need to buy Sun for, when they have a perfectly good UNIX box already? What a moron. Buying competition at an inflated price simply to put them out of business would be a silly and stupid move.

    • You definitely don't know much about economics.

      Since a monopolist is a single seller, it faces a demand curve. This curve is negative in slope. This means output directly impacts market price.
      So the monopolist creates an artificial price structure by restricting production, or forcing future sales (a la predatory licensing).

      Thus the monopolist moves to restirct output, getting to the point where *for them* mr = mc.
      For a monopolist, marginal social revenue > marginal social cost.

      There is no company that ever was, is or will be that will turn down the opportunity to gain this advantage. I know this well. I used to be an antitrust economic analyst for the bad guys (Maritime Inudstry). In the maritime industry, collusion was legal, as maritime was protected from federal antitrust regs.

      So while, on a techncical sense, "It is not illegal to have a monopoly", you are right. In reality this doesn't work.
    • "Buying competition at an inflated price simply to put them out of business would be a silly and stupid move."

      Why do you think Compaq bought Digital?

      My guess:

      1) Get Digital's customers.
      2) Squash Alpha NT that was competing with their servers.

      Other then that every great technology that Digital had has been split, re-sold watered down and eventually completely quashed.

      1) DEC NICs -- went to Intel, Intel 'phased' them out in favor of EEpro.

      2) Alpha -- Manufacture went to Samsung, design went to Compaq. Development slowed and is now officially stopped in favor of "IA-64". Uggh.

      3) DEC Networking -- went to Cabletron. . .Cabletron split itself apart (I still don't understand that one) and the DEC stuff
      pretty much disappeared in the debacle.

      The list goes on and on. Thus IBM _could_ do the same thing. Buy Sun to kill the competition, take their customers and then sell off each of their divisions thus making most of their money back and alsomaking it so that it becomes so dis-contiguous that the technologies eventually cease to exist.

      Company liquidator. I'm still so disheartened that Digital's great technology was dismantled and put in storage bins :(.
      • Actually, something survived: StrongARM. Rumour has it that this is what Compaq was originally after, since they realized the value of embedded computers and the fact that there are much more embedded processors being sold yearly than desktop systems.

        Compaq had StrongARM for a while, then sold it off to Intel (who were probably VERY happy, since they had nothing that could really compete with StrongARM in the low end). Note, however, that Compaq still uses ARM chips in all their iPaqs... My guess is that they have a really nice deal with Intel about them :-).
    • Actually, you want to gain market share, not establish a monopoly. It's just that the end point of gaining market share is a monopoly. Actually having a monopoly is a bad thing (unless your goal is to leverage it, which is illegal), which is why what you really want is to have competitors with market share small enough that it doesn't impact your profits.
  • Deja Vu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xtheunknown ( 174416 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @10:06AM (#3316019)
    This is not the first time there has been talk about IBM buying Sun.

    AIX (IBM's brand of Unix) has always been the red-headed step child of Unix OSes, lagging far behind Solaris and HP/UX in market share.

    IBM has always wanted people to develop applications for AIX and usually resorts to paying ISVs huge sums of money to port their apps to AIX.

    Buying Sun just makes sense. You get rid of AIX, which isn't that popular (outside of the scientific computing arena) anyway. You can concentrate the Power architecture R&D on its use in the iSeries 400 (AS/400). You can bring the huge resources of IBM's semiconductor business to bear on making SPARC more competitive on a performance basis.

    As for IBM's control of Java, who knows? I think they have been coveting Java for quite a long time now. They would kill for an opportunity to co-opt Java to their own devices, but Sun stands in their way.

    IBM would rule the commericial Unix computing market, which is why the FTC/EU would never approve the merger.

    It's something to think about, but unlikely to happen.

    "I'm not a journalist, but I play one on TV."
    • Re:Deja Vu (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sheldon ( 2322 )

      IBM is leading the market, and has a substantial share for several years. Remember, IBM is the Dot in .Com. a. html

      "IDC believes that the current competition for the number one spot in the Unix market will continue, and 2001 saw a positioning shift among the top players. Fourth quarter 2001 was the first time since 4Q98 that IBM took the top spot for worldwide Unix market share. Big Blue's 26.9 market share gave it a marginal edge over Sun Microsystems' 26.8 percent. Hewlett-Packard ended the quarter close behind with 25 percent market share."
      • I find these IDC numbers highly suspect. IBM tends to sell large site licenses and count the max license as installed systems. For instance they sell a big company a license for 10,000 workstations and even though the company only installs 5,000 workstations they convince IDC to count the entire number. IBM did this with OS/2, which according to their numbers was the leading PC OS at one time.

        Oh, BTW, Sun is the Dot in .COM, not IBM. At least that was what Sun's ads said.

        "I'm not a journalist, but I play one on TV."
    • AIX also powers a hell of a lot of retail and supply chain systems. If you go to a mall and see a big chain like Fredericks, Starbucks, Gap, Saks, they all run inv mgmt on AIX.
      • I don't know much about the scientific community, but I'm surprised that someone would say that's AIX' only stronghold. There are tons and tons of big old databases out there running on IBM fridges, as another example, ACNielsen runs AIX.
    • Wouldn't SPARC in your scenario interfere with PowerPC development? The way I see it, IBM would be much better off concentrating on 64bit PowerPC than SPARC.
      • Well, you have two competing goals here. One is having the fastest processor avaiable. Two is having the most applications available for that processor.

        PowerPC has goal #1 licked. It's much superior to Sparc when it comes to performance.

        Most people (some people in this discussion excepted) would agree that their are more apps available for Solaris then for Sparc, and that ISVs would rather develop for Sparc than for PowerPC. That means Sparc wins for goal #2.

        If IBM bought Sun they could do one of two things. They could improve the performance of Sparc, which is a relatively easy (for IBM) thing to do over time. They could also port Solaris to PowerPC, which may or may not be an easy thing to do, but far greater implications than the first option.

        There is one reason for IBM to buy Sun that no one has mentioned (and the reason why it will never happen). IBM could buy Sun to get them out of the picture. If they get something other than this, so be it. IBM is huge, with lot's of resources. Sun is not out of their reach financially.
  • I just finished up reading a copy of Jim Carlton's book, Apple, and Sun was right there in the thick of things years ago, looking to possibly buy Apple on several occasions. A very well written book for those of you that like that kind of thing (not just for Apple fans!), and a book that portrayes Scott McNealy as the type that doesn't seem all too likely to sell.

  • More (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Konster ( 252488 )
    IBM has been reclaiming control of its destiny since Lou took the reigns a while back. IBM's recent profit warning notwithstanding (who isn't issuing these things right now?), they've been on a road towards success that most other companies can only dream about. They have a strong business and a strong idea of the business that they are in, and I don't currently see them jumping into their longboats to embark on a campaign of Executive Hubris that is threatening the roots of Compaq and HP at this very moment.

    Now they are facing a merger between Compaq and HP, and they could probably not be happier with the impending disaster that will arise from it. Sure, the merged company might rival theirs on paper, but such rearward looking statements does little to ensure the financial viability of such a company years down the road. And keen IBM Execs are sure to see this.

    I struggle with the article numerous ways, not the least of which is that it is buzzy and hypey and that it utterly disregards the fact that IBM is already a massively dominant force in the industry.

    Maybe the fellow is working for Sun, and hopes that some buzz and hype will inflate Sun's stock value and therefore his own.

    Like Sun's stock, I ain't buying it.
  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @10:25AM (#3316130) Homepage Journal
    What would this mean to Java? Would the linux-loving Big Blue company open up Java? What about Tomcat and JBoss? Would IBM make WebSphere and Visual Age the ultimate in J2EE enviroments?

    It would be interesting to see how IBM would handle Java if it did buy Sun. It almost seems like it'd knock some part of open source (the Java source and the proprietary webcontainer and IDE IBM sells).
    • There's a few problems here:
      The main one is "In what sense does Sun own Java?"

      Sun doesn't own the language design. Sun doesn't own IBM's Jikes. etc. Sun owns the trademark, and the designs of some libraries. Sun owns the jdk, but that's not that big a deal. IBM did Jikes, Blackdown did the Linux port, etc. It has advantages, but I doubt that they are significant enough to be a major factor in a decision to purchase the company.

  • by Observer ( 91365 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @10:27AM (#3316141)
    To a first approximation, in the corporate world IBM owns the data center, Sun the high-end server tier, and MS-Intel the low-end server tier and the desktop. True, you can find other players, especially in the server tier and in niche areas elsewhere, but competition is already distinctly limited in these areas.

    Having common ownership holding the whip hand in more than one of these tiers will be very unpopular - as MS is finding in its attempt to infiltrate the higher-end tiers. An IBM with the ability to get synergies between the top two tiers would run into the same negative sentiments. And besides, I think that at present IBM's interests are complementary to Sun's, and the two companies understand this well enough not to use scorched-earth tactics against each other.

    Just my 2 cents from inside the corporate frontier.

    • Having common ownership holding the whip hand in more than one of these tiers will be very unpopular - as MS is finding in its attempt to infiltrate the higher-end tiers. An IBM with the ability to get synergies between the top two tiers would run into the same negative sentiments.

      It's true. Customers like to standardize on a platform, but smart companies always keep an exit strategy and leverage.

      One of my past clients during my *NIX contracting days was an all-Sun shop on the UNIX side, but prominently placed in the middle of the datacenter were an ominous pair of black IBM H70s (similar in size to Sun E6500s). They didn't run any services - one of them wasn't even powered on. Their sole purpose? Keeping the Sun reps honest.

      Here endeth the lesson.


  • The HP-Compaq merger is a disaster waiting to happen, too much overlap of services, etc etc. But I don't see a direct competition between Sun and IBM (other than in the server market) and a buyout might help both of them substantially, if done right (if done right....)

    But I'm not too about the issue, so I could be way off base here.
  • I'm not going to complain about the way that Sun manages he Java environment, they do a darn good job at involving the community in the process, however, IBM has also done great things for Java and their management of the technology would be as good or better than Suns does.

    IBM has a strong loyality to the OS community, I doubt we would ever see their Eclipse platform introducing propriatary stuff into the langauge.

  • Would Tremendous Blue buy the SPARC line as well or do they simply want the intellectual property of the software division? Does IBM want to maintain Solaris? Do they want to cross port AIX and Solaris into each other's hardware platform? Linux for both and screw AIX and Solaris? Kill off the SPARC line altogether?
  • IBM vs Sun (Score:3, Interesting)

    by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @10:35AM (#3316228)
    An IBM/Sun merger just doesn't make any sense. IBM has a successful Unix division using a completely different CPU and completely different OS. If Solaris/Sparc had significant advantages OR disadvantages to AIX/Power, then maybe. Don't forget that IBM is absolutely notorious for not likeing one division canabalizing the sales from another. Heck, that's one of the factors that led to the clone market and IBM's unwillingness to innovate in the pc arena for years. So what are they going to do if then acquire Sun. Which platform do you push? What do you say to customers who are trying to buy a "IBM" solution? Nope, just a big mess.

    One could also imagine scenerios where Sun customers would jump ship, since Sun has long been viewed as the anti-IBM (young and spritely vs old and lethargic). If IBM bought Sun, how many potential Sun people would look elsewhere (read PC's w/ Windoze/Linux) specifically because they DON'T want to tie themselves to IBM.

    The Compaq/DEC merger was fine since Compaq for the most part didn't play in DEC's sandbox. The HP/Compaq merger has a chance (as far as Unix goes) since PA/RISC is moribund and so is Alpha. No such situation here though.

    Also, one would have to imagine that the govt would have a VERY close look at any such merger, since the combined companies would own over half the Unix market and the feds are always on IBM's *ss about any type of monopolistic activities.

    IBM/Sun - Just say NO.
    • The Compaq-Digital merger was just the purchasing of a corpse at a discount, so Compaq could hold up Alpha/VMS/True64/etc. as a trophy of "serious" computing. DEC was cheap so Compaq bought a pedigree.
  • is a sequel to Blade Runner. Then on all the buildings we can put interactive advertisements for these hypothetical megacorporations. Bam, instant smackdown.
  • I think for Java, it doesn't make much of a difference anymore who controls it. Java has mushroomed far beyond the size at which it can fulfill its original promise: a safe, simple, multi-vendor language and runtime. Instead, it has become a huge, complex system with a single, proprietary implementation (plus a bunch of systems from other vendors that rely for most of their code on Sun's implementation). I don't see how IBM could reverse this even if their intentions are good: Java2 can't shrink again, and we are stuck with the multitude of APIs that it has.

    What we want is an open language standard with a simple runtime, something that people can build on without being tied to a single company. That's the way it worked for C, and that was good. Maybe ECMA C# fits the bill, if it can establish a life independent from Microsoft. Let's hope so.

  • Hey, don't get me wrong: I do appreciate Sun and what they have done for Java (especially for sending me the free 'Java' leather jacket a few years ago!)

    That said, Sun is in the hardware business, and to a much smaller degree the services business. I think that the Java brand is worth something to Sun, but as a Sun stockholder (I also hold IBM), I don't see the Java brand as crucial to their bottom line.

    I would like to the the following things change:

    • Sun release Java to a sandards body
    • the onslought of new Java APIs should stop!
    One of the things that I like so well about Common LISP is that it is standardized and basically does not change. Java, at least on the server side, is an awesome tool, to be sure. However, I would like to see Java frozen, except for bug fixes. I find it interesting that the same guy, Guy Steele, has been so important to two languages - Java and Common Lisp. (Actually, he also wrote one of the first Scheme compilers).

    Anyway, I think that Sun and IBM should not merge in any way, and that Java should be standardized and frozen.


    • Last I checked, sun had twice as many software guys as hardware guys. Software is a huge part of the company. I don't understand why Sun has to maintain its iron grip on java though. I'm guessing it has something to do with bringing the language up as quickly as it thinks it can so java/unix can compete with wintel.
  • From the article:
    "When asked about the desire to own Java, IBM's Director for eBusiness Standards Strategy Bob Sutor said 'I don't know about owning it, but we'd sure like to see it open sourced.'"

    I think the author's point in the article is that IBM needs to influence control over Java to gain equal footing opposite Microsoft -- the type of control that would come through a hostile takeover. The author delves into what such a fantasy takeover would entail as an extended metaphor for what kind of control [he believes] IBM could have were Java to become open sourced or a true open standard.

    The author continues with this point (open source could essentially get IBM what it'd get with a buyout) in this article, in the same series: ories/mai n/0,14179,2860394,00.html

    Very interesting!
  • by Kj0n ( 245572 )
    This reminds me of a number of problem we had with Java API's supplied by IBM (for instance the ones you can download from their website or the ones supplied with WebSphere).

    After simply including the API's on our classpath, the Java VM stopped behaving normally. Execution would suddenly jump from one class to the second(!) line of an exception handler in another class. After removing the API's things returned to normal.

    I don't know if IBM is planning to buy Sun, but they certainly have their own ideas about Java.
    • After simply including the API's on our classpath, the Java VM stopped behaving normally. Execution would suddenly jump from one class to the second(!) line of an exception handler in another class. After removing the API's things returned to normal.

      If that really happened (which I personally doubt), then it's a bug in your JVM, not in any Java API. Remember, the JVM was designed to run untrusted code from the network.

  • About the author (Score:3, Informative)

    by agby ( 303294 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @11:07AM (#3316527)
    I thought that I recalled the name David Berlind from somewhere. It was an article I read over at The Register [] about one of the most clueless half-witted tech articles ever written. The register article is here [] and the original ZDNet article is here []. Both make for very amusing reading.
  • How about this.

    Sun and Apple merge.

    Think about that for a second.

  • One of the most overlooked computer companies on ./ is Fujitsu. They are the second biggest computer company, behind only IBM. They have been in the Unix server market in Japan and Europe for years, and have started in North America with their Primepower [] SPARC servers. The Primepower 2000 [] is a very powerful 128 SPARC CPU (SPARC64 GP []) Solaris box. Fujitsu owns a good chunk of Sun already (25-30% I think, I have no hard numbers on this). If any body were to buy Sun, its Fujitsu.

    Sure IBM makes chips for Sun, so does TI, Motorola and Fujitsu. Everybody makes chips for everybody these days, its the way of business. Infineon does a lot of chips for IBM, Infineon is owned by Siemens, in turn, owned by Fujitsu. Give the market 10 more years, and there will only be 3 computer companies.
  • I think what IBM may be seriously considering is putting up some serious amounts of money to beccome the co-developer of Java with Sun or even outright buy the technology from Sun.

    I mean, look at what IBM has done with Java--not only have they produced some great applications written in Java for mainframe and AS/400 systems, but also has proven that IBM's own Java Development Kits are way better than anything Sun has done.

    With IBM being at the helm of Java, it could convince Microsoft to support a pure Java implementation again. Despite the fallout over OS/2 I think Microsoft would rather deal with IBM than Sun with their big ego upper management (Scott McNealy and Bill Joy).
  • Sun death watch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @11:31AM (#3316736)
    Clearly this is not the first to make this interesting observation. I have heard it said other places as well; IBM is on a sub death watch.

    Consider, how much of a future is there really for selling sparc boxes? Unlike Microsoft with .NET, Sun has no real way to make or reinforce core product sales thru Java. In fact, Sun as a software services company is very week, so there is no core value there either once Sparc sales take the big dive south.

    Now IBM is the one company well positioned to take advantage of Java. If they could gain control of it, they could do the one thing Sun cannot; make it into a real standard. The problem Sun faces is that, unlike Microsoft, which choose to hang their valuable trademark on the "whole" (.NET) rather than C#, Sun trademarked the language rather than Sun NetOne,

    Hence, it's painless for Microsoft to make C# a "pseudo" standard, but since Sun licensed and trandemarked on the language itself, they are stuck.

    Microsoft can use .NET to leverage itself as an application services business as well as reinforce the sales of it's .NET "client" and "server" platform, by making the language standard but not the platform. This will steel potential revenue directly from IBM.

    So IBM waits. The sparc business dies off, and it can pick up Sun for a mear $100 million or so. Very cheap. Then it can do the one thing Sun can't, and make sure Java is everywhere, that it is free, that everything has it. It doesn't need the revenue from Java licenses the way Sun does and will by then, but it needs to establish a platform not controlled by or redirecting revenue into Microsoft.

    So if Sun goes under, the world of enterprise computing might finally be free and everyone else benefits, except Microsoft. Not a bad scenareo. Hey, Scott, do you think you can do the world a favor and pull it off soon?

    Of course, if Microsoft manages to outbid IBM for the dying Sun or offer them a bridging "deal" like they did to Apple to get Java out of the marketplace, well, that is the day I leave the industry for good.

  • by Galvatron ( 115029 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @12:10PM (#3317051)
    In Fiorina's dreams, perhaps. In case you folks didn't hear, Hewlett's lawsuit was NOT dismissed by the courts, and a court date has been set for late April. Furthermore, no legal document prepared by HP has actually denied Hewlett's claim, they have merely tried to say that what he's claiming is not actually illegal (it is).

    I would say it's no more than 50/50 that this merger actually goes through. In the current post-Enron climate, all allegations of corporate wrongdoing are being taken VERY seriously.

  • I'm not sure IBM would need to buy Sun. If they keep up the pressure in the UNIX server space the same way that they have been doing for the past 12 months or so, they might be able to eat up a substantial portion of Sun's current market.

    What will be very interesting is when (if?) IBM brings the POWER4 chip down the line from the p690. This has already happened with the p670. A 1.1GHz or 1.3GHz POWER4 chip in a low-cost, lower-end machine, like a 4 or 8 way server, would put some intense pressure on Sun and stuff like their V880.

    The Java angle is also interesting...would IBM need Sun to dominate Java? They already claim to have the largest group of Java developers in the world. They produce their own quality Java compiler and JVM. They have a highly competitive Java application server and framework, and a suite of GUI RAD tools to go with them. They have a strong database server that links in with the app server, and supports Java too. In some respects, IBM's Java position may be stronger than Sun's. Maybe.

  • by ahde ( 95143 )
    Looks like the mainstream (well, ZDNet) has found the slashdot story generator []
  • The comparisions to Microsoft - unavoidable in any discussion on /. it seems - are very unfair. First, as mentioned in other posts, IBM is a much larger company than Microsoft, so that alone would not be a reason to merge with/buy Sun. Second, IBM has a very different business model.

    Microsoft is a consumer product company that has been moving into the corporate world. IBM is a business product company that have tried making consumer products. In fact, apart from Lotus, IBM do not have any products directly competing with Microsoft. Microsoft is trying to get into the high-end mission critical systems, but so far they're mostly found on webservers and on PC clients.

    IBM is also a services revenue driven company, with a successful and profitable consulting organisation. IBM recently made Visual Age for Java and also Websphere Studio available for free. That is an indication that they will continue to focus on their Websphere centred approach, trying to sell and implement the large infrastructure solution with WebSphere, MQ Series etc on their own hardware.

    Back on topic, Java, that will be the platform of choice for IBM for one main reason: Microsoft won't make any money from it. IBM sell hardware and software that support the use of Java applications. Microsoft has clearly shown it want to control the runtime environment as well, but we'll see who wins that race.

  • Sounds as though someone's portfolio needed a little stroking. Hrmm, Sun trading at a three-year low. We need to leak a takeover rumour.
  • **SCREAM** (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SkyLeach ( 188871 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @01:25PM (#3317702) Homepage
    Please don't ever mention Oracle obtaining Sun again.

    Oracle corporation employs programmers which know little-to-nothing nothing at all about the following concepts:

    Source Control
    Static Linking

    Oracle is a fine database - but it would be worthless if the 5 programmers in the world who understand its source code suddenly died or contracted Alzheimers: which isn't really unlikely considering that they will be getting old long before they can explain that mess to anyone.

    Sun saw the light: their days were numbered. Eventually Linux will surpass Solaris in the one remaining area that matters: SMP. After that Sun is in biggo trouble. They are better off grabbing Linux and coaching embrasure of their hardware, Linux software and Java for platform independance. IBM buying them makes sense for IBM because IBM already plays nice with Linux. Oracle buying them will mean that Solaris will become iexorably tangled up with Java and Oracle and turn into a very very nasty mess.

    I want to see IBM buy Sun, build a kernel module JVM running at near-compiled speed, and open Java up completely.

    Now that would be sweet.
  • If IBM bought Sun and folded it underneath, that would make IBM pretty much the only serious player in the mid to high-end UNIX server market. Once that happens, the anti-trust lawyers would get pretty eager again and try to take IBM to court. Especially considering that if IBM bought Sun, it would have no interest in the hardware end since IBM makes its own hardware which directly competes with Sun's products. Either Sun's hardware group would get spun back off like they did to Lexmark, or they would simply re-design them as low-end pSeries products with Power processors instead of the Sparcs. Plus, why bother to support Solaris when you make AIX?

    These lawsuits charging IBM of monopolizing a marketplace has happened before (IBM Global Services used to be a subsidiary called ISSC to help thwart anti-trust charges), and with the current Microsoft case I think others (Hitachi, Amdahl, etc.) would prob. like to get in on anti-trust lawsuits against IBM.

    Just my .02....

  • OK, OK, the articles are over at ZDnet, which should be the first clue (I mean, when was the last time you read an incisive, researched, and intelligent article over there?)

    Get this folks: IBM is a SERVICES company. Lou made the right transition in the early 90s: IBM makes its money on selling expertise and consulting, not in pushing hardware. Even the more lucrative hardware divisions (Lexmark, the Mainframe group) pale in compare to the money raked in by IBM Global Services and the other custom software/solutions groups. IBM sells services and knowledge; they incidentally sell hardware to promote the sale of the services, but it's not their primary focus.

    Sun, on the other hand, is in the business of pushing boxes. The vast majority of Sun's revenue derives from sales of hardware. Sun has a software division whose purpose it is to promote the sales of hardware. Java is there so that Sun will sell more servers.

    IBM has no incentive to buy Sun. IBM already sells a boatload of consulting and services contracts to people who have Sun equipment, so they wouldn't gain much additional revenue by owning Sun. In addition, since IBM makes hardware which competes with Sun's stuff, guess who gets the software contract when a client needs to integrate IBM equipment with Sun? That's right, clients go to IBM, not Sun. If IBM eliminated its UNIX hardware (which, if they acquired Sun, would slowly happen), well, all these nice integration contracts would dry up.

    IBM and Sun will never merge - there is absolutely no reason for IBM to be interested in Sun - in fact, they gain MORE by having Sun be a competitor on hardware. Sun and IBM really play in different spaces, and there is little if any synergy or logic behind a merger.


"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll