Open Source: Sun Microsystems Inc Sun Microsystems Inc. has been intensely exploring open source domain this year in order to propel its popularity. In February, it began to offer free download of Solaris 10. In November, Sun Chairman Scott McNealy introduced the OpenSPARC project – Sun will publish specification of the UltraSPARC T1 chip including the design source, verification suite, and simulation models. Most radical change of all came on November 30th, when Sun announced it would give away almost all of its core software products for free, bundling some of the software into a single package, Solaris Enterprise System, creating an alternative to Microsoft Windows. Sun is also planning to provide the free source of the software in the near future.
This is a big change from the original business strategy: to spend a lot of money on development of in-house technologies and then try to sell products at high prices. This strategy failed to work well in the recent years as customers started to switch to cheaper machines running open source operating systems and software. The news strategy is to increase popularity of Solaris and the accommodating software with developers and startups. Increasing popularity of the Solaris system will increase the demand in the Sun servers, which are the main source of income for the corporation. Additionally, Sun will charge for support and maintenance of the freeware, a model which worked well for many companies (e.g. SpikeSource). Sun does not have a single customer worldwide that runs an unsupported product in their datacenters.
However, this change of strategy can is a risky maneuver. If Solaris does not gain market share or if Sun can’t find enough ways to get customers to pat for services to cover the cost of software development, the move can backfire. Also, Sun has yet to win back the allegiance of investors who exited its stock after the Net bubble burst.