The sun is setting behind a storm of paperwork. Sun Microsystems
There's no denying that the customer list sounds great on paper, with market darlings like BlackBerry maker Research In Motion
First, the list looks impressive unless you've spent any time in a corporate data center. I've done six years in the trenches at two major corporations, and I've seen the inside of many computing centers. The truth is that most companies with any significant history or size will have at least a few Suns crammed into operations somewhere -- alongside a few Hewlett-Packard
Second, the flood of partner information and a sparse earnings release together make it look like Sun is trying to distract us from boring financials with a few pretty trinkets. "Look at all these partners! We must be doing great! No, don't look at those numbers -- look at these beautiful celebrities!"
Sorry, Mugatu, we're looking at the numbers. Sales increased a healthy 17%, and last year's net loss was cut in half. So far, so good. But operating margins are still in the red, the plush cash balance is a result of depleted long-term investments, and Sun is selling property, plant, and equipment rather than buying it, so capital expenses are negative. That last point would be a good thing if it didn't show a company that has given up on its business model.
In all fairness, CEO Jonathan Schwartz has only been on the job for a couple of quarters, and the capex weirdness could be a simple result of him embossing his own stamp onto the company. Sun wants to move away from hardware sales and be a software and service company these days, judging from public comments. And listen to this: "Customers across the world are turning to Sun as the safe choice for open-source innovation, for industry leading identity and security management platforms, and for the most eco-responsible infrastructure to power the network."
That's Jonathan, pointing out what he sees as the company's greatest competitive advantages. Open-source innovation and data security sound like attributes the computing industry appreciates, but having the greenest computing platform available, well, that's an unusual spin. Low power consumption is highly desirable these days, but that comment points somewhere else. It's high time for Sun to stop playing around and start acting like a grown-up business. And stop throwing empty press releases at me, for goodness' sakes!
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