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Self-important Marketing Crap

As I mentioned earlier, Slashdot posted a couple of stories today that caught my attention. The second story irked me, raised my ire, and generally made me feel like Jonathan Schwartz does not even pay attention to what he himself is saying.

To summarize: Sun has several great success stories and is very well respected in the tech industry. Their servers and operating system have powered major businesses for decades. They have made tremendous progress in the desktop productivity software market, directly competing with Microsoft, with StarOffice and the open source relative OpenOffice. They have signed a deal wit Google to distribute StarOffice as part of the Google Pack. And, in case you did not know, they invented Java.

Java is everywhere. Many very high-profile web properties are powered by Java. Java is on your computer. Java is probably on your phone, too. If you touch technology in any way, you probably have interacted with Java, whether you know it or not. Now, if you happen to be Sun and you know that your product is on so many pieces of hardware and works on so many different platforms, that's got to feel pretty good.

Conversely, while everyone knows Java, very few know Sun. So, to capitalize on this Java "brand recognition" Sun is changing its stock trading symbol from SUNW, which clearly states who they are, to JAVA, which clearly states what they make.

To quote Mr. Schwartz directly:

JAVA is a technology whose value is near infinite to the internet, and a brand that's inseparably a part of Sun (and our profitability). And so next week, we're going to embrace that reality by changing our trading symbol, from SUNW to JAVA. This is a big change for us, capitalizing on the extraordinary affinity our teams have invested to build, introducing Sun to new investors, developers and consumers. Most know Java, few know Sun - we can bring the two one step closer.

To be very clear, this isn't about changing the company name or focus - we are Sun, we are a systems company, and we will always be a derivative of the students that created us, Stanford University Network is here to stay. But we are no longer simply a workstation company, nor a company whose products can be limited by one category - and Java does a better job of capturing exactly that sentiment than any other four letter symbol. Java means limitless opportunity - for our software, systems, storage, service and microelectronics businesses. And for the open source communities we shepherd. What a perfect ticker.

Here's where I start to take issue. Sure, Java is everywhere. I can't avoid it. I'd like to, but I can't. I think applications written in Java tend have lag issues. They can have a lot of features, but Java, for some reason, seems very memory and CPU intense. Mind you, this is opinion base on anecdotal experience, but it is my experience. I have seen it time and time again. Maybe a good Java developer can write an application that does not suffer intermittent slow-downs. If that is the case, then there must not be many good Java developers out there, because I have not seen these quick, responsive applications.

To continue my point, Mr. Schwartz says, "JAVA is a technology whose value is near infinite to the internet." I think this is greatly overstating Java's importance on the Internet. Java could go away tomorrow and a new technology would be there to fill the void in the market. On the other hand, let's just assume that this is true. I feel that it is taking credit where credit is not due. There are other technologies that underly Java and provide real processing and data base power to those applications written in Java. There are operating systems that depend on other technologies that make Java's presence possible. These are the giants upon whose shoulders Java must stand. Without them, Java would drop into the void.

The way Mr. Schwartz finishes his article is the real stumper. "[Sun is] no longer simply a workstation company ... whose products can be limited by one category - and Java does a better job of capturing exactly that sentiment than any other four letter symbol." To the first part of this statement, isn't changing your stock ticker (your "investor identity") to a product that you produce, in fact, identifying you by that one product? Isn't it actually limiting your identity to be one product? Microsoft™ used to be synonymous with Windows™. Today, Microsoft is known for its gaming platform, its office productivity suite, and its operating system, most of which are also synonymous with "virus". If Microsoft were to change their stock ticker to WNDW (or any other "windows" variant), it would be ignoring the other contributions they have made to the community (for good or evil).

As to the second part of that quote, I know that I am not alone in thinking that Sun could pick a better four-letter symbol, but it would not be appropriate for publication or trade on the stock market.


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