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Sun Microsystems

Sun To Sell Linux PCs 424

Rubbersoul writes " is reporting that in "a bid to undermine arch-rival Microsoft Corp" Sun is going to jump into selling low cost Linux PCs. The article is a bit low on technical details, but is interesting none the less. Also if you take this new news with a story from yesterday about Sun pushing StarOffice for schools around the world, you really start to get an idea that sun wants to beat MS like a red headed step child ..." An editorial in the WorldTechTribute argues that Sun's education-market giveaway is exactly the sort of behavior that Microsoft has been attacked for in the past.
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Sun To Sell Linux PCs

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  • low cost? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pixelated77 ( 472348 )
    Low cost hardware doesn't sound like Sun's schtick, now does it?
    • as I said above

      its not really all that hard and they get the margins by putting on a smart card reader on it and asking you to buy a BIG SUN server to run your web portal and sign on DB

      which makes sense because you where running you NIS+ on a SUN anyway and now you want to upgrade to liberty (-;


      John Jones
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:28PM (#4283036)
    Sun has gone the route of trying to sell low-end desktops to push an agenda (promote Java, dethrone MS). They haven't had good luck in this market.

    What compelling reason is there to buy a Sun box over a the umpteen beige box vendors, IBM, Compaq, Dell, etc? Linux is only part of a low-priced solution. Does Sun think they can make a box cheaper than Dell?

    • No, but I'll bet they can provide better Linux support than Dell.
    • More likely it'll just be the finance guy wanting to only use one vendor. Sun does make better servers than dell (generally). If you're forced to make the choice in a company, would you rather have better servers or better desktops?
      • Also, the finance guy has HEARD of Sun in the corporate marketplace, and it does not come with the new MS licensing scheme. That scheme was a big deterrent to the company I work for. Most finance guys won't buy white box or home-use computers, but they'll approve a name they've heard of in the corporate arena.
    • by FeatherBoa ( 469218 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:41PM (#4283136)
      What compelling reason is there to buy a Sun box over a the umpteen beige box vendors, IBM, Compaq, Dell, etc?

      Well, Sun has not had to cut a deal with Microsoft in order to remain in business. If there's money to be made (different question entirely) from "major vendor" boxes for running Linux, Sun's in a position to exploit it. The "umteen vendors" have all sold their first-born to Bill.
      Yes, you can buy no-name, but some people need/want to buy name-brand and Sun is a name-brand that is conveniently immune to Microsoft's interference.

      • Compare cash on hand, earnings, revenues, market caps, etc.

        "Selling out" to Microsoft hasn't exactly hurt Dell, whose market cap is nearly seven times that of Sun's.

    • There was an article a while back that really showed that Sun is in a very bad position. I forget the details of it, but the gist of it was this.
      If you look at the technology they are working on, they seem to be at odds with themselves. They are developing cross platform software, and they are giving it away mostly for free, while they are trying to make money on selling a specific hardware platform.

      Their software model, by most accounts makes it harder for them to differentiate their hardware. Their strategy is really the "get microsoft" approach, and they seem to be little concerned about the long term implications of their choices on their own business.
    • What compelling reason is there to buy a Sun box over a the umpteen beige box vendors, IBM, Compaq, Dell, etc? Linux is only part of a low-priced solution. Does Sun think they can make a box cheaper than Dell?
      Dude, Sun boxes are cool, then come in sweet colors, and have cool names like Onyx and Oxygen...

      Oh wait, I'm thinking of SGI ;-)

    • by n9hmg ( 548792 ) <n9hmg@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @03:43PM (#4283745) Homepage
      I'll give you a compelling reason. Sun will do a standard set of hardware, optimize the OS install for that exact platform, with sensible defaults and and easy configuration. Corporations will be able to just buy a box and have a good working system, no problems with the video card of the day the vendor sent not being supported by the current distribution, compile a custom kernel for it, then keep track of it in case of a future reinstall. If Sun changes the hardware, it'll also support it.
      I love Linux. I started using it 9 years ago, almost to the day. Yet, one of my major headaches in my job is answering questions from people who are trying to take advantage of the superiour OS, but don't have the background to make it work.
      Ok, so you can't run calibre. Are you on a Sun, or an HP?

      OK, What kernel version?
      I don't know
      type "uname -a" and tell me what it says
      It says "youname: command not found"
      Really? what's your $PATH set to?
      I don't know
      ok, type "echo $PATH"
      It just comes back to a prompt
      Ok, what's the system name, I'll telnet in, and see what I can see.
      ok, what domain is it in?
      what do you mean?
      Is it, or what?
      I suppose
      Ok, what is the IP address - just type /sbin/ifconfig -a".... what user are you logged in as?
      so none of your user setup scripts are being run for you anyway. Let's try logging in as yourself - you can just "su - username"
      su: user username does not exist
      Ok, have you set up NIS?
      What's that?

      After digging down through all this stuff, teaching enough unix to make it so I can get into the system. I go to the website for their particular distribution (I'm a slackware man, myself), and start learning the management interface
      If it were a defined platform, the user would have set the box on his desk, followed the instructions, and been up and running, and I could go right in and tweak things like NIS and automount, instead of starting from scratch on each box.
  • Hmm.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZeroConcept ( 196261 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:30PM (#4283044)

    "argues that Sun's education-market giveaway is exactly the sort of behavior that Microsoft has been attacked for in the past.:

    A few differences:
    - Sun has not been ruled a monopoly
    - Sun is not trying to give away free things to schools as a sanction to being ruled a monopoly
    • but, just like Microsoft (and anyone else who ever gave anything they produced to schools) they are being accused of the underhanded business practice of getting people to use your equipment, and then hoping they will buy some for themselves when the time comes.

      Oh my god, you're a functional business!
      You Bastards!!
    • Re:Hmm.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ILikeRed ( 141848 )
      Don't forget the most important difference - Sun's gift is not proprietary, so the schools can access their documents without Sun software, and hire 3rd parties for support, updates, and improvements
    • Sun giving away StarOffice for education is more of a public relations ploy than anything else.

      The vast majority of StarOffice code is actually the OpenOffice base, which is free to _anyone_? All that comes extra with StarOffice is a few fragments of functionality that can't be distributed as open source because it is owned by companies other than Sun.

      IE, on the other hand, was (and is) an entirely closed source base that cannot be obtained (legally) from anywhere except Microsoft and it's partners.

      It's also important to note that "free" IE is only available for download to run on systems running Microsoft's own OS products, which are _not_ free. If WinXX were free, and Microsoft were giving away IE to educational groups but charging the general public, you would have a fair comparison, but as it stands your comparison is just a red herring.

    • And sunb Isn't giveing things away, ony to charge them a hefty liscens for new products once there old ones become entrenched.
    • Especially with software, which is not donated, but licensed. You are not free to do as you wish; the restrictions you agree to have an economic value -- they may in fact put you in the practical position of surrendering cash in the future.

      When donating GPL'd software (Linux), or software which is based on well documented and open file formats (StarOffice) that can be read by GPL'd software (OpenOffice), you are making a donation which has no strings attached. It's a very different thing.
  • They're losing ground in the server market, have priced themselves out of all competition, and now they're going for the education market?

    Hmmm, I think it's a hopeless cause for them.

    Getting into the education market is putting them between two highly competitive companies: Apple and Microsoft. Additionally, they're trying to get into the cheap pc market and compete against eMachines, Dell, Gateway, etc.?

    Sounds to me like they feel left out and are trying desparately to get their stock price out of the gutter without any original ideas.

    • for contracts where they supply a server and then N cheap boxes, i.e. glorified terminals, running something or other.

      Basically it's the Sun Network Computer except now it runs linux and it has email and word processor, and so the people with them don't feel like they were given the gimpiest computers.
    • Nonsense.

      Excellent and growing market share in the Unix and enterprise server market, have just released an excellent little Linux server, have clear differentiation over the Linux story that other vendors push, fantastic developer support and great Unix experience, with all the Unix expertise and services that make big, worldwide companies buy from large vendors like Sun.

      Sun is more than just hardware. You need people to advise, set up install. I doubt these low end Linux PCs are aimed at the general consumer, but at the customers coming to people like Sun and saying 'help us get rid of Microsoft on the desktop'. Sun Ray are often a good solution, particularly for call centres and similar enviornments.

      Think of a large company with 10000 PCs, that is seriously considering a move to Linux on the desktop. If they're going to do it, they need to do it through a big vendor, who is more than just a box shifter (Dell) or a vendor who backs off their support to tiny companies like Suse (IBM).

      This is a market Sun need to be in, because if they don't sell the kit, someone else will.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If Sun put a mainstream distro, (preferably Redhat), on the machines it'll be successful.

    If Sun put CowBoyNeal's version of Wine, running on Foobar Linux, under the Bochs emulator, which is actually running on Plan-9, installed on an ESDI hard disk, with no PCI bus, but EISA instead, and 30-pin SIMMs, and everything installed via a PERTEC interface tape drive, then it won't be very successful.

    I just wonder which option they will go for. Unfortunely, the second option seems to be the preferable choice for a lot of system builders who ship Linux!
  • by babbage ( 61057 ) <> on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:33PM (#4283060) Homepage Journal
    Sun's education-market giveaway is exactly the sort of behavior that Microsoft has been attacked for in the past.
    Well yeah, but Sun ain't a monopoly. That changes everything. I don't think anyone would object to giving material to schools if all other things were equal, but when a company in Microsoft's position does it then the action can fairly be described as an illegal extension of their monopoly powers, whereas if Sun does it that criticism doesn't work.

    Moreover, what is Sun talking about giving away here? Linux machines? Java tools? StarOffice? Sun isn't exactly the only provider of such technology, so even if the giveaways propel adoption of these technologies, their open nature means that this won't necessarily translate back to their bottom line. On the other hand, for every PC Microsoft gives away it'll be running Windows [money back to themselves], it'll probably be running Office [money back to themselves], and maybe it'll have Visual Studio [money back to themselves]. None of these are open, none of these have significant competition. If they get people using such technology, there's only one vendor supplying it.

    Please compare Apples to Apples or, in this case, Suns to Suns.

    • by babbage ( 61057 )
      Good lord if I'd realized that the site I was replying [] to was the Fox News [] of tech news sites then I wouldn't have bothered. What awful tripe.

      Too bad sites can't be moderated as -1 troll... :-)

    • by azimir ( 316998 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:42PM (#4283152) Homepage
      Just so you know,

      StarOffice was already free for educational institutions, site liscence and all. We love it here and more and more of our people are using it. It costs us less to deploy each copy, both monetarily and time-wise.

      If you dig around the educational parts of Sun's website you'll find much of their sofware is already very cheap for schools.
    • Well yeah, but Sun ain't a monopoly. That changes everything. I don't think anyone would object to giving material to schools if all other things were equal

      Somewhere during the early to mid 1990's...

      Salesman: I'm sorry Principal Cleaver, I can't donate any more copies of Windows for your school.

      Principal: Why? Last week you set up Jefferson High with a new computing lab!

      Salesman: That was last week. This morning some lady in Colorado purchased Windows. That took us over some arbitrary number of users, and now we're a monopoly. We can't do any good deeds anymore. You must now pay full price for Windows because our CEO's wallet is getting thin.
    • The store I worked at once gave 10 watermelons to a church. Was that an anti-competitive practice?
    • It's fine to give things away in order to receive goodwill. And of course pure altruism is also fine. The real problem is when you give someone a gift that is meant to trap -- and it doesn't matter if you are a monopoly or not.

      The problem with Windows give-aways is that they close off other avenues of computer knowledge that a person might otherwise find. For instance, Windows uses its own terminology in many places for no good reason (for instance, calling hyperlinks "shortcuts"). I feel this is a specific attempt to miseducate people so they have difficulties with other environments.

      Other companies do this too. AOL does it all the time, crippling their users understanding of how the internet works (while pretending it's because they want to make the internet easier). Many companies use binary formats meant to trap data. The MS Visual development tools trap developers, but a lot of other development environments have tried to do the same thing. There was a time when Troll Tech was using Qt in the same way (though they've thankfully reformed). Maybe this is a form of "leveraging", but I don't keep up on the subtleties of business lingo.

      When someone gives away a product like this, it is not charity. It is just a loss-leader (and with software, there often isn't any real loss involved). It doesn't matter if you are a monopoly or not -- a loss-leader isn't charity, and the receiver should be suspicious. Microsoft receives extra scrutiny, because they have sinister intentions (as has been evidenced many times over). Sun can be sinister too -- their management of Java in particular, but that could certainly extend into other areas.

      But maybe not. I don't think StarOffice is a loss-leader, nor much of Solaris (it is too similar to other Unices). They may be looking solely for goodwill, or they may be competing with Microsoft -- they can compete through giving without committing the same sins.

  • Be honest, who really wants to purchase low-cost Linux PCs? Now, if these were low-cost, Linux servers, I could see the benefit. But, to add to the points made on this thread already, why would one go to Sun for this anyway?

    Sun needs to focus their attention on one of their strong suites, Java. To me, that is there best bet to stay competitive with Microsoft. Maybe look at making portions of Java OpenSource, or as they have already pledged, take some of this effort and use it to help the OpenSource community in other fashions.
    • Maybe look at making portions of Java OpenSource, or as they have already pledged, take some of this effort and use it to help the OpenSource community in other fashions.

      Hey, great idea! Sun can stay profitable by bloody well giving away all of their intellectual property. You should be in business, Xafloc.
  • Walmart/Lindows at $199.95? Fry's at $299.95? A friend of mine has always said: "You can't make an money selling hardware". He's right.
    • I take it your friend doesn't invest in Apple? They actually seem to do well on that model.

      And come to think of it, so does Sun, to a large extent, with their servers.
      • Both of your examples have been purging money for the last 2 years.

        Apple [] and Sun [] are not worth investing in if you want to make a profit on your investment.

        (Click on "5y" for a 5 year history of the stock prices for each)
        • Both of your examples have been purging money for the last 2 years.

          Apple and Sun are not worth investing in if you want to make a profit on your investment.

          Looking at the last two years for Apple, they've actually been rolling acceptably in a predictable range. Furthermore, Apple's cash flow and marketshare have stayed solid and/or increased.

          And keep in mind that the big drop you see in early to mid 2000 is a stock split... double the value of Apple Shares if you want them in pre-2000 terms. Suddenly the last 5 years don't look so bad. And even the last two don't look so bad if you compare them to other tech companies.

          Now, Sun, I can't speak to...
        • Then do the same for GE, who's making money hand over fist.

          Repeat after me: An ebbing tide lowers all boats.

          Apple's actually doing pretty well, profit-wise.
    • You absolutely can make money selling hardware. You just can't make money selling the same hardware that the other guy sells, because the market is fixed and your margins are low. But if you sell hardware that's differentiated, you can make a fortune. Look at Sun's server sales. Their servers are differentiated by the OS and by the apps that run on it. Look at Apple. Their machines are differentiated by Mac OS X and the apps that run on that. Lots of people are buying lots of Suns and Macs.

      If Apple got into the PC business, or if Sun got into the PC business, they'd find themselves out of business real quick. Just look at SGI for evidence of this.
  • by glv ( 31611 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:36PM (#4283082) Homepage
    And it's a misconception that's all too common.

    Monopolies have to play by different rules. That's a part of U.S. antitrust law. Things that are perfectly legal for other companies are illegal for monopolies.

    Sun didn't criticize MS for trying to create a monopoly by giving away IE. Sun criticized them for trying to illegally exploit their existing monopoly to build another one.

  • Will they follow the Cobalt Cube approach since they already have it or will they go another route?

    The Cobalt Cube looked very cool in their little blue cases. I did not see in the article if they were going to be intel or sparc based.

    I am not going into the basic Wintel bashing stuff but I hope it does well simply because it gives consumers more choices even if those products are focused primarily at educational and corporate users.

    ________________________________________________ _
  • by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:38PM (#4283100) Homepage
    Sun's obsession with Microsoft doesn't hurt Microsoft, but it is going to kill Sun. While they are busy wasting all their resources "fighting" Microsoft (a company not even in the same market as they are for the most part), IBM is going to squash them on the high end, while Intel finishes taking the low and medium end hardware from them.
    • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:49PM (#4283216)
      McNealy has been trash talking Microsoft for years. Look at where it has gotten Sun shareholders.

      Scott had the opportunity to make nice a few years back like Steve Jobs, and just accept the inevitable - Bill controls a huge swath of the computing market. Admitting such helped keep Apple in the game, and it got some good MS software on OSX quickly.

      I'm not saying that MS and Sun would exactly be in bed today had Scott made nice, but certainly a less adversarial approach could have kept Sun out of the crosshairs.

      • >>Look at where it has gotten Sun shareholders.

        No kidding. SUNW went under 3 today and their market cap is under $10B for the first time in over 5 years.
  • Quote from article:

    "The primary motivator for enterprise customers (to buy Sun Linux desktops) will be reduction in costs and freedom from Microsoft," Sun said in a statement on the user conference.

    The way this is worded just has an elitest anti-MS sentiment about it. "Freedom from Microsoft". Why should the primary motivator be to give users freedom from MS? One thing that has always bothered me about SUN is that they just can't get away from slamming MS all the time. Sure, it might be appealing to a lot of anti-MS people, but most Joe Blow consumers aren't going to buy a PC just because they want to be "free from Microsoft".

    If they would have approached this new product with something like "offering consumers more choices and better prices" I would be much more excited about it. At first I thought that is honestly what they were trying to do, but then I read the statement mentioned above. Now I read it as "we don't care about the consumer, we just want to take marketshare away from MS's customers". Just a perception thing, but I think it has merit. I'm sure I won't be the only one to pick up on this.

    • "Freedom from Microsoft". Why should the primary motivator be to give users freedom from MS?

      I think it would be better translated as freedom from Microsoft Licensing.

      I know the company I work for has balked about the new scheme, and we are upgrading our existing machines (maintaing the old licenses) instead of buying new hardware.

      The new MS Licensing finally got it through to the people controlling the company finances that we are entirely too dependent on proprietary software. We are looking into Linux to replace our basic Office computers at this point. We still need MS for CAD, though... :-(

  • by SanLouBlues ( 245548 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:40PM (#4283126) Journal
    And when Sun has their Office Suite monopoly, they'll use their propriety (fully documented) xml file format to force people to use either Windows, Linux, or Solaris forever. HAHAHAHAHA!!!! It's just too dastardly!
  • Microsoft is a convicted monopolist.

    Market behavior with is legal and ethical by a company in a competitive market is neither legal nor ethical for a monopolist.
  • by Tim Colgate ( 519024 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:40PM (#4283130) Homepage
    Scott McCollum, who wrote the editorial in WorldTechTribune - you may remember him from other choice articles:

    New Linux virus creates peer-to-peer terror network []
    HP finally fires their anti-business business strategist for Linux []
    Disbanding the RIAA will turn the music scene into 17th Century Europe []
    The GPL, open source freedoms and the Cold War []

    This last article has this classic quote:

    The small minority of geeks who adhere to the cultish mindset of the GPL and Linux will definitely take offense to this, but there is no reasoning with someone who blindly follows the precepts of open source and the GPL ...those people will never understand why the NSA would reject the GPL. For rational people, I can sum up exactly why the GPL is not and in its current form will never be useful for the NSA or any similar enterprise: "Open" is the exact opposite of "secure."

    • by jamie ( 78724 ) <> on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @03:09PM (#4283396) Journal
      As far as I can tell, the WorldTechTribune position is:

      Liberal = bin Laden = Clinton = communist = godless = inferior = open-source

      Conservative = superior = Microsoft

      Well, maybe not quite that bad, but close. Here are some samples from their articles:

      "What makes open source the secure, stable and elegant software panacea open source cultists claim it is? ... say you are the IT director at a bank and you buy into the Linux is stable, secure and bulletproof hype. ... Welcome to the lazy, cut-and-paste world of open source 'innovation' where people who should be smart enough to know better still think you can get something for nothing. It would be humorous if it wasn't so pathetic..." ("Thanks to open source methods, only 2 out of 500 job-hunting programmers pass skills test" [])

      "The outcry against Palladium doesn't really stem from a concern about your privacy, but more from a vocal minority who wish to impose their anarchistic schemes onto us under the guise of 'freedom' and 'liberty.'" ("Microsoft's Palladium transforms Internet from Wild West to suburban neighborhood" [])

      "many customers who purchased those inherently more stable, secure and virus-proof Linux servers are probably wishing there was a multi-million dollar virus protection industry to help them out." ("New Linux virus creates peer-to-peer terror network" [])

      "The SE Linux project was developed during the Clinton administration ... NSA officials say their cyber security enhancements made for SE Linux have not only benefited the NSA, but because of the terms of the GPL have also strengthened the security architecture of computers used by malicious cyber terrorists around the world." ("NSA deputy director says 'never again' to Open Source" [])

      That last article is just hysterical. The NSA administrators, under pressure from Microsoft, stopped development on SELinux -- because Microsoft didn't like the fact that government-developed code was released freely under the GPL. Microsoft objected to the competition. WorldTechTribune is using all its quotes out of context, and pretending that the objection was concerning national security and terrorism. Amazing.

      • It really is quite hilarious. The thing is, these people actually seem to believe the illogical spam they put on their site. Much to their credit, however, surprisingly open to opposing viewpoints (if only to try to shoot them down with Cold War analogies). When the JPEG patent news broke, I posted a parody [] of Scott's articles to the site... and they started asking me for guest commentaries!
      • by RailGunner ( 554645 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @03:56PM (#4283844) Journal
        I should preface this.. I am a conservative. I've voted for George W. Bush 3 times now (2 times for Texas Governor, and once for President.) As a Conservative, the idea that conservative = Microsoft really pisses me off, for a number of reasons. For one: I am a free market capitalist.

        Arguably, a PC running Windows is a platform that runs applications.

        Unfortunately, Microsoft, due to undocumented API's, are able to do things with their software that ordinary windows developers like myself cannot. For example, if I were to write a spreadsheet application, chances are it would not perform as well as Excel in simple matters such as SCROLLING the window. (In fact, this is the case, try it yourself). So, that is an uneven playing field, in fact it's uneven whenever your application has to compete with a similar application from Microsoft (as I'm sure the Netscape guys would agree).

        Linux, on the other hand, being Open Source and Free means that the "PC running Linux" platform for running applications means that no company can leverage the core OS to it's own advantage for very long. The competition among competing applications becomes "Who can write the best app" not "Can we keep up with Microsoft's undocumented API's". That is competition at it's finest, and the end result is better, faster, cheaper applications for consumers. The result of competing with Microsoft in a similar application space is usually sell out or die (Netscape is irrelevant now, Real is likely next, WordStar, Lotus, etc have all been crushed by MS Applications.)

        So, as a conservative, and as an application developer, I would like nothing better then to see MS get it's ass handed to it by Linux. And yes, an acceptable alternative would be to open up the Windows codebase, but we all know it will be a cold day in hell before that happens.

        The goal is for a truly level playing field in the software application market, on home and office desktops and servers. Linux is the way to have that level playing field. If getting Linux as the dominant platform on PC hardware takes Sun's help to do it by handing out free PC's running Linux to schools, that's fine with me. I seem to remember reading something about Red Hat doing the exact same thing, and I think it's a good idea.

        But still, the goal remains an Open Source Operating System running on an Open Hardware specification as the market leader. It is a very good thing. Let the browser wars be fought by who writes the better browser, Mozilla or Opera (Or IE running on Linux). Let the desktop wars be fought by KDE and GNOME and anyone else. But nobody can leverage Linux to an uncompetitive advantage the way Microsoft can.

        With that stated, it's easy for Conservatives to see that to truly free the market and allow innovation and competition to flourish, that unfortunately, Microsoft, the convicted monopolist, as it exists today, must cease to be.

        • So, as a conservative, and as an application developer, I would like nothing better then to see MS get it's ass handed to it by Linux. And yes, an acceptable alternative would be to open up the Windows codebase, but we all know it will be a cold day in hell before that happens.

          So, do you think that vot[ing] for George W. Bush 3 times now (2 times for Texas Governor, and once for President.) has helped or hurt you to reach the first goal?
  • by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [noxxax]> on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:41PM (#4283138) Homepage
    While I wish SUN all the best luck in selling these low-cost Linux PCs, I don't have great faith in their ability to succeed in this low-margin market. These companies don't have a true understanding for how little money is involved with selling PC hardware.

    I worked for SGI a few years ago (as an intern), just as they were introducing their PC strategy. They were coming out with (relatively) low-cost NT workstations with a proprietary graphics system (kicked ass at the time..), but were immediately stuck in a catch-22. They had high prices because they couldn't sell enough, and couldn't sell enough because of their high prices. SGI also tried selling server-ish PC boxes (with redundant power supplies, and multiple processors and stuff), but that lasted about a year as well, before it went away (at least I can't find it on their web page [] anymore)

    When people buy PC hardware, they expect to pay PC hardware prices. And they want support. And warranties.. There's just no money there...especially not the kind of money these companies are used to seeing.

    If they're getting in to this to make money, then they're in trouble. If SUN is getting in to this to fight against MS, then great, but I don't think SUN has enough money to fight MS.
    • When people buy PC hardware, they expect to pay PC hardware prices.

      So what's your point ? These boxes ought to be cheaper than Wondows PC's because the OS and Office suite on them is free.

      And they want support. And warranties.

      Are you claiming that Sun can't offer support and warranties ?

  • Stay relevant in the market place or fade away....Keep up with the current market trends or die, it's that simple.

    This move may or may not do anything for Sun's fortunes, but it's sure to keep IBM/Redhat awake at nights.This is a race to see which company is the "offical" supplier of linux desktop/workstation pc's, and that means more choice for you, and more opportunities for Linux growth.

  • In a bout of microsoft driven pseudo-angts they say: "The specifics of the deal Sun Microsystems has made are shocking: Sun will "donate" copies of their StarOffice 6.0 productivity suite to the Ministries of Education on just about every continent except for Antarctica. "

    of course selling penguins to Antartica is lost cause and even Sun wouldn't try that ....

  • The comparison between what Sun is doing and the monopolistic behaviour of Microsoft is unfair.

    Microsoft using its desktop dominance to put IE in front of users before they have a chance to get Netscape is using dominance in one market to gain dominance in another. That's when a company uses a monopoly in a criminal manner.

    Sun, on the other hand, is trying to gain share in a market where they have no leverage other than their product and the price they're willing to sell it at. They aren't leveraging their hardware products (AFAICT) to get people to use Star Office. They aren't using Solaris to push Star Office onto these companies. They are doing what any non-monopoly company would do when entering a new market: offering their products at a very low price (here, free) to encourage users to switch. The pay-off comes far, far down the line when Star Office (potentially) becomes a real player in the field of office software.

    In short: Microsoft leverages OS dominance to gain browser dominance. Sun uses low price to gain a foothold in office productivity market. Not the same thing.
  • by Pinky3 ( 22411 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:44PM (#4283164) Homepage
    The New York Times article, []
    The New Sun Ready to Push Linux as Alternative to Microsoft, emphasizes the push for Linux and StarOffice, without any mention of hardware. All of these articles are guessing what Sun is going to say tomorrow, when the offical announcement is to be made.
  • by bigmouth_strikes ( 224629 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:44PM (#4283169) Journal
    Sun has a history of pulling stunts like this against Microsoft. Their reasoning is that every dollar that doesn't end up in Microsoft's pocket, is a dollar they can't spend in developing software competing with Sun's own. It's as simple as that.

    Star Office was an attempt to undermine the very profitable Office suite. By pushing Linux machines, they do the same thing with the OS. They don't gain anything on this themselves - it's not their technology, it's just that they want to take away free money from MS.
  • From where I'm sitting, Sun can't be about to push a load of cheap linux boxes out for the average user. That would be commercial suicide - the PC market is already too cut-throat for there to be any margins to work with.

    Sun probably isn't that worried about getting a vast income from pushing StarOffice for schools either - the benefit to Sun from this initiative is that students will be familiar with StarOffice rather than MS Office.

    Sun's likely push here is to move in and replace all those Windows boxes in places like call centres, POS terminals and sales rooms where a centralized server provides much of the grunt and the terminals actually don't do much. Being able to replace existing Windows installs with PC + Linux makes a lot of cost sense - network installs, locked down to prevent fiddling, with the needed apps either on the Linux machines or on a central (Solaris?) server is likely to be a winner on TCO.


    Toby Haynes

  • by melquiades ( 314628 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:47PM (#4283198) Homepage really start to get an idea that sun wants to beat MS like a red headed step child...
    I beg your pardon!! As a redhead, I strongly object to this insensitive, derogatory, almost bigoted verbal abuse of people with red hair, who frequently bear the brunt of tasteless remarks such as this one. I will not tolerate being compared to Microsoft!
  • you really start to get an idea that sun wants to beat MS like a red headed step child
    Where have you been for the last decade or so? This is not news. Scott McNealy has been publicly drawing comparisons between Gates and Vader/Satan/other-evil-figures for years. McNealy's purpose in life is to destroy Microsoft.
  • by Eloquence ( 144160 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:48PM (#4283205)
    First, you should know that the author of the editorial is the same troll that wrote brilliant articles like "The jihad against Microsoft": []

    Torvalds posted his Unix rip-off dubbed "Linux" on the Internet in 1991 for free. True to his family's socialist radical politics, Torvalds released his OS under the non-standard General Public License (GPL) or "copyleft." Under the GPL, programmers had the ability to download Torvalds' Linux, fix the bugs in his program and give the improved program back to him to distribute to the Linux community. GPL programs are essentially community property with no real owners, but since Torvalds was the originator of the rip-off, it becomes his personal rip-off to control as he wishes. In other words, Torvalds became the dictatorial leader of the Linux cult with all decisions for the greater community good going through him first, then doled out at his convenience.

    Let's all move Scott McCollum into our collective killfiles and move on, shall we? Furthermore, the key difference between Sun's donation and Microsoft's, besides the fact that Sun is not a monopoly, is that Sun has open sourced Star Office. To gloss over this little fact is typical for a professional troll like McCollum. While Star Office itself is not open, it's an open platform, and the differences between SO and OO are minor. So even if SO/OO were to become the standard, it would always be easy to move somewhere else if necessary (and you can bet someone will fork OO if Sun does something fishy).

  • you really start to get an idea that sun wants to beat MS like a red headed step child ..."

    Who exactally is the redheaded step child here? I just have this image of Sun as the little step brother madder than hell swinging at Microsoft that is holding the kid at arms length by the top of the head.
  • Oh, nevermind. :P

  • by cornice ( 9801 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:55PM (#4283276)
    It seems to me that Sun could move ahead by focusing on hardware and integration. Solaris has some advantages over Linux but Linux has been gaining ground. The future of Sun is not in a closed Solaris. It seems that Sun has the resources to deliver real solutions for large customers - large servers, Linux desktops, diskless Linux terminals, etc. If they focus on making great hardware and making everything play really well together then they stand a better chance of making this work. Frankly the beige box war is over. I hope they see that the next phase is about integration and interoperability. Deliver more function, more security, less headaches, more integration for fewer dollars and you survive the next round. Dell could be a victim of their own success if they don't get this.
  • From the Reuters article:
    ...sparking strong debate over which market [servers or desktops] Linux will hurt most.

    Ouch... I don't think Linux will or has hurt either market. In fact, I think Linux has been good for the server market definately, and probably for the desktop market.

    Someone should tell Reuters to watch their language, news services aren't supposed to be so biased.

  • Star Office (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If it's like OpenOffice, it'll never fly in the US. I was going to use OO in the office, but there's no way to set it up for U.S inches. The "US letter" thing works, and the page rulers will change to inches, but all the margin settings are in millimeters. And there's no way to change the default print command to anything other than "lpr" and make it permanent. (If there is a way to do these things, I couldn't find it from a menu.)

    FWIW, I tried OO after I gave up on KOffice. KDE in general doesn't care how many times you tell it to print US Letter-size, it insists on printing A4-size pages. (The KDE mailing lists are *not* the place to point out things that are broken - replies range from "you got the source, fix it yourself" to "go back to Windoze." There doesn't seem to be much interest in userland usability reports.)

    So I tried AbiWord, it did US inches, great! But it has the same problem OO has, default printer is "lpr" and there's no way to change it to "lpr -P whateverdriver" and make it permanent. Which works OK for a semi-geek-literate like me, but requiring an average button-pusher to remember to add the -P stuff just doesn't cut it. It's amazing how many pages of garbage get printed if you forget it, too. Maybe some day Linux will be ready for prime-time in the US, but not today. Damn.
  • 0wnage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @03:21PM (#4283526)
    I don't see how this is much of a suprise. Sun's got a vested interest in anything Unix or Unix-like. They also have a vested interest in promoting their supplimental products. If they can sell someone a bunch of Linux client systems that work with their server products that customer is going to be likely to pick up their server products as well. Microsoft is less interested in selling you a site license for Windows XP Pro than they are interested in selling you a support contract for XP Server and all associated programs. The same goes for Office, if Microsoft gets Office XP there's a good chance BackOffice will end up there as well.

    Right now Sun has the 20% software to fill 80% of people's needs. When users don't have to administer it themselves, just run it, Linux is not a bad system at all to deal with. GNOME is a very good desktop environment and there are plenty of apps to substitute the collection you're going to find on the typical computer lab PC. StarOffice is not a competitor to Office XP in many respects but it does serve the needs of most general users. StarOffice in a school would work just fine in most cases.

    I'm suprised they didn't try this any earlier really. They've had their Blade systems out for a while now without much fanfare. Ray systems are the same way, they've been available for a while and aside from the initial rumbling when they were introduced nothing particularly impressive has been announced regarding them. Sun has managed in the past to get their foot in the door of many college CS departments because of Java development packages. Maybe now they are trying to get their head in the door by showing off some of their other products.

    I think the only way this will really succeed is if the systems are priced very attractively and no one else comes out with a better Linux offering. All Sun needs in this situation to fail miserably is to have IBM or HP spit out some cheapo box with Linux on it. If they're not interested Apple could drop the price of the eMac down to $799 or less. There's a bunch of schools jumping all over eMacs at $1000, lowering the price would only increase the demand. I think Sun's bad timing could make them the losers in the not-Microsoft PC market.
  • Scott McCollum is nothing more than another Un-educated troll. In fact the one technology reporter/editorialist I cant stand on this planet (John C devorak... mr-rant and rave without a clue) has much more credibility than this Scott McCollum fellow. Look at his last 5 rants. They are all childish trolls at best. Full of unfounded opinion and uneducated conclusions. I am all for opinion but only for people that have read, researched and made their decision logically and smartly.. not like this "report what we feed you and be a zelaot about it" crap he writes.

    Scott McCollum.... this is another person that really needs to be added to everyones ignore list.
  • by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [noxxax]> on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @03:31PM (#4283621) Homepage
    The editorial [] mentioned at the end of the slashdot article is painfully bad. The person writing it obviously has very little idea what he is writing about.. Let me give some examples..

    First, Sun will forego the PC OEM deals for StarOffice 6 because Sun Microsystems' main revenue stream comes from their own PC sales.

    This is in reference to SUN not getting together with companies like Dell and Gateway to put StarOffice on their machines. The first thing that got me, though, was that it says that SUN's main income is from their PC sales. Last time I checked, SUN doesn't make PCs. And, while they may start in the near future, they certainly don't have any revenue from it now.

    After years of protestation and lawsuits against Microsoft giving away IE for free, is Sun hypocritically hoping to create an illegal monopoly of their own by giving StarOffice 6 to students for free?

    Again, just because you do something that mirrors what Microsoft does, does not make you Microsoft. Giving away software does not make you a monopoly. Immoral business practices do. Besides, as the author tries to mention, SUN makes its money on hardware (not PC sales), similar to Apple. All they're trying to do is show people there's an alternative to the Wintel platform. They're trying to show people that you don't have to have a box running windows to be productive. That you can have a Linux box (that they'd love to sell you in a few quarters) and run StarOffice on it and be doing just fine. As far as I can tell, there's nothing wrong with that. Another thing people need to remember is that there's a big difference between a non-monopoly business practices. If a non-monopoly says "If you don't put our software on all your machines, you can't put it on any, it doesn't matter, because the OEM has choices. When a monopoly does it, it is illegal, because the OEM has no real choice (go out of business?).

    If the schools had actually purchased the software rather than acquired it for free, the deal adds up to a $5.7 billion (yes, billion with a "b") missed opportunity. That's $5.7 billion USD in sales that Sun will never see because they gave it away at a time when they don't need to be giving away $5.7 billion.

    Oh come on, buddy. This is complete nonsense. While the numbers work out, it's meaningless. Software doesn't have intrinsic value. That's not like saying "I'm going to give away 100 cars." It's the same thing about trying to figure out the value of "pirated" software. You can't say you lost 40 millions dollars, because one million people "pirated" your $40 software. It just doesn't work like that. These schools wouldn't have paid $5.7 billion for this software, so SUN didn't give away $5.7 billion.

    Anyways, the editorial just goes on and on like this.. it's truly painful to read.
  • Has someone told Sun what Low-cost PC means? I mean it. Are they really ready to sell Sun hardware at the $600 - $1100 dollar price point? The last time I checked the cheapest Sun workstation was $2700.00 from them and that was without decent hardware in it.

    I really hope they aren't biting off more than they can shew as nobody is going to buy a $1400-$1900 sun workstation as a "low cost PC"

    but that said... I will pay a premium if it is in fact Sun hardware and not a gigabyte board +intel or AMD+other generic in a regular box with a sun logo stuck on it. I already have a "Silicon graphics workstation" that is like that (Yes I pryed a SGI logo and the name sticker off of the @home hardware that was getting chucked... and yes it's on my dual PIII workstation at home.)

    If it's SUN then gimmie! if it's intel... you can keep it.
  • I'd buy one.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chicane-UK ( 455253 ) <> on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @03:57PM (#4283859) Homepage
    Even though I build my own PC's and download Linux, I support what Sun has done. If I was looking to buy a 2nd system to run Linux on I would buy one of these for a number of reasons :

    a) Sun cases look cool.. and trying to find decent looking and inexpensive cases in the UK seems to be fruitless.

    b) The quality of the kit should be pretty good.. I have a Sun Blade 100 and that system is very well built and reliable.

    c) Even though Sun are a big company I still appreciate what they do for individual users - so I'd feel like I was helping a bit to keep them afloat.
  • Sun [] needs a transition plan to make migration from the low end Linux/x86 based desktops and servers [] to their Solaris []/Sparc based high end workstations [] and enterprise servers []. Otherwise they will not be able to bring as much sales up to the higher tier. There are two ways to do this. One is to run Solaris on x86 [] hardware as the middle tier. The other is to run Linux [] on Sparc hardware as the middle tier. One of these approaches leaves Sun subject to the whims of another CPU maker [], which has it's own plans for 64-bit [] domination []. The other leaves Sun subject to the whims of a huge open source software community [] and a few choices in Linux distributions [] (such as Debian [], Mandrake [], and SuSE []) as well as FreeBSD [], NetBSD [], and OpenBSD []. Which way do you think would be better for Sun?

  • Sun vs. WalMart (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 )
    Sun's competition here isn't Microsoft, it's WalMart.

    First, Sun can't make low-end PCs themselves. If Sun makes it, it will cost too much. They have to outsource, in which case, they're a reseller adding cost without value. WalMart can deal with offshore manufacturers directly; they don't need Sun. Sun doesn't have a distribution channel for moving low-end boxes in volume; it probably costs their sales operation a few hundred dollars to sell and deliver anything. Sun isn't known as a consumer brand; they have no retail presence.

    So what does Sun bring to the party? StarOffice?

  • It's 4:10pm EST as I write this.. there's not much Wednesday left. When will we get to see these new machines?

    It's only early afternoon in SF but late afternoon seems weird for a product demo or press release. Apple, for example, seems to always have the keynote in the morning.
  • Three easy steps:
    1. Sell Linux PCs at cost price and give away StarOffice
    2. ???
    3. Profit.
    Sorry, couldn't resist. :-P
  • by buffy ( 8100 ) <buffy&parapet,net> on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @07:34PM (#4285461) Homepage
    An editorial in the WorldTechTribute argues that Sun's education-market giveaway is exactly the sort of behavior that Microsoft has been attacked for in the past.

    Perhaps the difference, however, is that Microsoft is a judicially declared Monopoly, whereas Sun is not. So, the anti-competitive..nay...competitive behaviour of Sun is NOT on par with the same behaviour of Microsoft. This fact is one of the big reasons Microsoft fought such a declaration so hard--they kept saying, to the effect, "we're just competing in the marketplace."

    From a certain perspective this actually may seem unfair to Microsoft, but remember that the determination that MS was a monopoly was based, in no small part, due to the illegal activities that they were engaged in to obtain/maintain an unfair market advantave. So, punitive actions are certainly justified to try to bring it back into line and even the competitive landscape--to give other companies such as Sun the opportunity to succeed that they were previously denied by Microsoft's behaviour.

    Just my $0.02.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard