Censoring Free Media (Or… Fighting Letters to the Editor)

I read two daily newspapers.

I know the world is moving away from printed media, and this admission marks me as a bit of a dinosaur – but there are all kinds of interesting parallels between the newspaper industry and the software industry. Both are undergoing tremendous change, creating havoc for some and opportunity for others.

The industries have much in common – minimally, they’re both rooted in creative writers (journalists and developers).

Traditional newspapers publish content produced by their employees. Writers and journalists have degrees and credentials, even awards for quality and integrity, like the Pulitzer Prize. To the extent editors allow the unwashed masses to contribute content to their publications, they host “Letters to the Editor,” typically limited to a single page, and heavily filtered. Non-professionals can apply for longer opinion or “OpEd” pieces, but those column inches are more frequently reserved for former prime ministers or (former) world bank presidents. Simplisitically, in the world of traditional print media, >99% of the content comes from employees, less than 1% comes from the community they serve. The editor is in control.

On the other end of the spectrum, a variety of on-line media companies, exemplified by Craigslist or YouTube or Lokalisten, aggregate and organize content produced by the global community. This content is (poorly) known as “User Generated Content,” or UGC, and the companies distributing it see themselves as technology companies. Their employees don’t produce content, they develop technology to organize it and make it accessible. >99% of their content comes from the global community, and a tiny percentage comes from their employees. It’s the perfect inversion of traditional print media.

We can quibble about which is the more respectable of the two models, traditional versus new media, but there’s really no point. The market accords a far higher value to the on-line aggregation sites than print media (just think, how many venture capitalists fund newspapers?). With on-line media, there are no trucks to maintain, no 500 kilo newspaper rolls to purchase, no journalists or printers to pay. On-line media, both demographically and statistically, attracts more viewers across the world, and more viewer minutes. What was laughable a few years ago has become big business – with real profits.

How does a print media company grapple with the threat of on-line media? If they’re not acquiring new media properties, they’re attempting to add community engagement to the on-line analogs of their printed publications (eg, opening comments on ariticles or newsfeeds). This isn’t always smooth, but rather than fight the trend, most recognize that readers find community content as or more interesting than corporate content (I, for one, find the comments on my blog far more interesting than my blog). Put simply, letters to the editor have become as valuable as the articles inspiring them.

Now, traditional media could certainly take another tack. They could sue the new/technology media companies, claim they’re stealing readers by violating patents held by traditional media. Imagine, “We patented text in columns! Classified ads in boxes! Captions on pictures! Headlines in large type!” But they’d be suing the community – the moral equivalent of suing subscribers – stepping over the line of editor, into the role of censor. And censoring free media is a particularly awkward plea for those that believe in freedom of the press. Few have sued. Most, but not all, have evolved, through competition, acquisition, reorganization or rebirth. Those that failed to adapt have deservedly perished.

What does this have to do with the software industry?

The software industry is going through exactly the same transition. Seven years ago, StarOffice and Solaris, to take a couple examples of key products at Sun, were built by our own employees. The source code to both was available under restrictive licenses, but our (equivalently Pulitzer Prize winning) engineers wrote 100% of the code. With very limited input from the community. We listened to users (and their letters to the editor), certainly, but we didn’t allow them to touch the code (or lay out the front page). We were in control.

And then our biggest competitor became, in the late 1990’s, a product built by a company that aggregated and organized software from the open source community. They built little of their own, they relied on the software equivalent of community content, or Free and Open Source Software.

Could we have sued them? Sure. Sun has what I’d argue to be the single most valuable and focused patent portfolio on the web (and yes, we’d use it to defend Red Hat and Ubuntu, both). But suing the open source community would’ve been tantamount to a newspaper suing the authors of their letters to the editor. We would’ve been attempting to censor rather than embrace a free press. It might have felt good at the time, but it wouldn’t have addressed the broader challenge – community content was becoming more interesting to our customers than our professional content.

What have we done since then? We dropped the price to free on both products, made the code available as Free software, and got busy engaging rather than fighting the open source community. Rather than diminishing revenue, this singular action amplifiied Sun’s business opportunities – not everywhere, but among those that see downtime as more expensive than a service subscription (another word we share with traditional media). Want proof? – take a peek at this mashup, click “Blank” in the upper right hand corner to hide the satellite map, and ask yourself if Sun could possibly have fueled adoption at that global scale without embracing Free software (the answer is a definitive, “no”). And whether those that downloaded might be interested in everything else we build (the answer is “yes”).

But more than Solaris, one product in particular has capitvated consumers across the world – OpenOffice, which you can download by clicking this button:

I’ve been across the planet for Sun, and everywhere I go, I see OpenOffice growing in adoption. It’s built, evangelized and localized by a massive community – it runs government agencies in Brazil, banks in India, high schools and universities across North America and Europe. We’re making huge progress across China. OO.o is in call centers and hospitals and legislatures and elementary schools, and localized globally, it exists in more languages than its (only) major competitor. It’s driven competition into a market which historically had none – and it’s created an opportunity for the world to standardize on an open, royalty and patent free file format for exchanging documents. Most recently in Norway, and eventually everywhere that believes in a free press.

OpenOffice has embraced user generated content, and is now largely a derivative of community contribution – how has it benefited Sun? Beyond engaging the world with Sun’s brand (I recently interviewed a new hire at Sun, who said he didn’t know Sun well, but he’d written two master’s theses in OpenOffice – and saw the logo every day for years), it’s benefited our customers, opened historically closed markets, made productivity affordable to millions around the world – and thus grown the market for Sun and others. Decreasing the cost of productivity by $500 a user has had a huge impact in the developing world (and among developing companies). Free software has no pirates.

And yes, I’m well aware that we have a long ways to go to return SUNW to its heights, and to get revenue and earnings growing more aggressively. But the best way for us to do so is to embrace community content, not litigate against it. Those that resist the transition to free media are valuing their patent portfolios more highly than their customers. And that’s not Sun’s business model.

And again, if you’re a public school teacher in Beijing, a university professor in Sao Paolo, an engineer in Warsaw, a researcher in Antarctica, a student in Nigeria, an entrepreneur in Pune, a banker in Singapore or a developer in Norway – or a journalist that cares about a free press – I invite you to add your voice, here.


Filed under General

71 responses to “Censoring Free Media (Or… Fighting Letters to the Editor)

  1. Very Happy Solaris 10 and OpenOffice User

    Right on the mark, Jonathan. (And, yes, you have a ways to go with SUNW stock, although various analysts appear very positive about Sun’s growth. Example 1 | Example 2)

    Keep going strong with open source, Sun!

  2. [Trackback] After an initial post dated May 15, the CEO of Sun Microsystems returns to talk about Microsoft’s patent threats on the free software community. He compares the newspaper and software industries, finding great similarities between the two and in …

  3. Well said – your analogy with traditional media makes perfect sense. I’ve recently become an OpenOffice.org convert and can now see the long-term value to everyone, including SUNW. I’d like to point your readers at a portable version of OpenOffice.org – now you can take it with you on your pen drive, or inside your iPod (65MB space needed).

    PS I do hope you successfully defend your extensive patent portfolio against Azul – no news on this in over a year.

  4. Srini

    Good Comparison. Great support from Sun to the Open Source community. Scott, Jonathan and SUN are well known globally for Free Software and as supporters of OSS.
    Has all these high profile support to OSS community really helped Sun in increasing its top line / bottom line? By being more Vocal and aggressive, SUN may now have to incurr huge legal costs fighting Microsoft for the Staroffice patent infringement suit.
    This would be the right time for SUN to shift focus; concentrate more on the core Hardware business, improve market share and Net margins.

  5. The comparison is great. I’m a law student in Argentina, and do all my work in OpenOffice. Now, if just more people embraced the OASIS standard…

  6. Marc

    You did not comment on the recent buyback annoucement, but it looks strange to me. 1 billion dollars should be enough for 1000 developpers for 10 years, which means that instead of struggling to keep up with the competition many Sun products could become clear leaders, which would probably gain more money to the shareholders than a buyback. I know that development does not scale that easily, and 1000 people are probably not needed, but some more would clearly make a huge difference, when I keep hearing about useful projects delayed or cancelled for lack of resources. I don’t know much about hardware development but I guess the same kind of maths applies.

  7. Jerome

    Interesting article.
    Changing ones view of what ones product is turns a potential competitor (Google) into a partner.

  8. I imagine that Sun’s patent cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft of a few years back, should’ve given Microsoft pause when it came to making allegations against OpenOffice.org, but Microsoft being Microsoft, I suspect they opened their mouth before checking that their feet were clear.
    What amuses me, though, about Microsoft’s posturing, is that OpenOffice.org has established a market in places that Microsoft was too precious to try – I’m thinking in particular of the size of the South African market and the fact that OO.org is the only office productivity suit in all eleven of South Africa’s official languages. It would be good to have it translated into Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu …
    Anyway, keep it up!

  9. Ian

    Excellent article. You may find our comments more interesting than your articles, but you’re kind of biased there aren’t you? 😉 personally, I find your blog both well written and insightful 🙂
    I (and many others) are still hoping for a GPL’ed Solaris when GPL3 is released. If you’re talking about what the community wants, this is the biggie – they want Solaris and Linux to cross pollinate and create something greater than the sum of its parts.

  10. Taurnil

    So how does your new pledge here effect your coveanent with Microsoft over Openoffice and Staroffice? Seems to me the two are mutually exclusive.

  11. Peter

    Thank you for your support of the open source movement. I was first exposed to UNIX on a Sun workstation. Though I’m now using Linux, I’m still using Open Office and Java, for which I also thank you. No secret that we can use some support against our common competition. I hope it works out well for both Sun and Linux. Thanks again for remembering that computers are all about empowering and assisting the *user*, not the (software or hardware) manufacturer. When the manufacturer remembers that the goal is to help the user do their job better and more efficiently, we both win!

  12. I wish there were more CEOs that understood their industry and business as well as you do, and could express it so well. Good use of images too.
    As a fan of Linux and Open Source, I think Sun’s support is a great encouragement to outsiders who are interested, but scared by the strange new world it seems to be and the very different way it’s run. It really helps people like that to hear a professional and established organization like Sun tell them it’s a good thing.
    Microsoft is propping up the old world and Sun is helping to build the new one. In fact, with Java, Solaris and Open Office as contributions, what single organization, besides GNU or Linus Torvalds, has done contributed more to the Open Source community than Sun? I guess it wasn’t always this way, but I think Sun has become the Open Source Company.

  13. Mark

    Don’t forget StarOffice in the backs of airplane seats:

  14. Dave Maxwell

    Mr. Schwartz, I haven’t always agreed with all the things you and your company have said about your Open Source competitors but those things were never more than business smack-talk; it’s to be expected. But you are bang-on about what asses MicroSoft is making of themselves. I am a customer to software vendors and as a customer I don’t respond well to threats.

    In contrast to Steve Ballmer, you are infinitely classier and ultimately you’re smarter too (and dare I say less sweaty and probably better at anger management?). It is good to see that Sun competes with innovative product rather than litigation. And speaking of OpenOffice, thanks for that too.

  15. Dunstan Vavasour

    Do you know, Jonathan, your description of how Sun is opening new markets is almost exactly as described by Richard Stallman 20 years ago. He said something like “denying your software to everybody except those who give you money is a big disincentive to its wide usage”, and went on to describe an IT industry where money was made in goods and services rather than software licensing royalties. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for promoting the ideal of free (libre) software long before it was fashionable to do so.

  16. As a print and Web trade journalist–who covers Sun–I was particualrly inerested to see that while you promote the move to open software and online user-generated news, you also read two print newspapers.
    I won’t call you a dinosaur. But I will call BS on anyone who uses black and white thinking to say newspapers will die. TV didn’t kill radio and the Web won’t kill TV and print media. Each media will find its appropriate level as things settle out.
    Whatever the media, people will value reading reports both from peers and from talented experts weaving a story. Likewise I assume people will always value both free software and stuff they have to pay for, even from large monopolistic companies, when it gets some significant job done for them.
    So let’s stop hyping the Web and open source and start being realistic about finding where these new opportunities fit and where they don’t. BTW, what’s the other newspaper you read?

  17. Great comments, and I agree 100% with your premis and conclusions.
    However, it was my understanding that Sun purchased Star Office from a German company (name escapes me now) and then re-wrote portions of it. Was it entirely rewritten?

  18. Carl

    I wish I had some sage advice, but I don’t. I have nothing witty to say either.
    What I do have for you is my heartfelt thanks for helping to keep the dream alive.

  19. Mr. Schwartz, As Senior Editor for LXer.com I am a part of the new media you speak of. You are smart to ride OO.o for all its worth. It will eventually level the playing field for all office applications and keep Sun in business.

  20. Brandon Nolte

    Perhaps Jonathan would like to clarify the patent situation revolving around zfs and its ramifications to the GNU-Linux/and other “non-Solaris” community. I have been impressed with several of the moves that sun has made under its new command … Hats off Jonathan.

  21. Joe Buck

    I’d like to thank Sun for its many contributions to free software/open source; my whole family uses OpenOffice on a daily basis. And thanks for saying that you’d defend Red Hat and Ubuntu.
    However, there are members of the OpenSolaris community who brag that Linux will never be able to have features like DTrace and ZFS, because Sun has patented them and licenses those patents only for code that uses the Sun license, and not for GPL code. Is it Sun policy to use patents and license incompatibility to maintain an advantage for Solaris, even though the inability to share GPL code means that Sun can’t port the vast array of Linux device drivers?

  22. Excellent post! I actually have characterized the entire trend (publishing, software, etc..) as an open ethos reinventing an industry.
    (part I &
    part II

    I also just wrote a follow up post for Read/WriteWeb where I speculated what it would look like in online advertising.

  23. Alexander Malic

    Hi Jonathan,
    I like your Analogy.
    My Belief is, that Patents should be disposed generally in Software-Industry because it’s not only the Scrollbar that differs between good and bad Software.
    Im living in the EU and here they are discussing about implementing Software-Patents (SP). There are big Companies behind Lobby-Campaings for SP. Maybe SUN could join the Opposition and strenghten them.
    The SUN-Logo would look really nice on this Online-Petition-Site.
    a Java-Developer

  24. Good Article…i am big fan of openoffice and i recently started using openoffice on Linux..i am new to linux and openoffice and found it very good.
    keep supporting open source..

  25. Very well said.
    The computing landscape is changing again, as it has in the past. Community, networking and openness are at the heart of the change.
    Companies which “get it”, whose management see the change coming and adapt to it, will be ideally placed to benefit.
    Those who continue to “think proprietary” and chase customer lock-in will be left behind, just like the “big iron” mainframe suppliers were when computing moved onto the desktop.

  26. Dear Jonathan Schwartz,
    If the print media – online media analogy does not sink in, Microsoft would go ahead and take the open source to court.
    Sun doesn’t want to go to court. Sun settled its 2002 lawsuit against Microsoft in exchange for a little bit of money that was at best symbolic in the sense that it was about the size of a quarter in expenses. And Sun has been completely unwilling to sue competitive Open Source enterprises. “Could we have sued them? Sure….But….” ; “In essence, we decided to innovate, not litigate.”
    A snake dwelt in a certain place. No one dared to pass by that way. For whoever did so was instantaneously bitten to death. Once a Mahâtman (a Sage) passed by that road, and the serpent ran after the sage in order to bite him. But when the snake approached the holy man he lost all his ferocity, and was overpowered by the gentleness of the Yogin. Seeing the snake, the sage said, ‘Well, friend, thinkest thou to bite me?’ The snake was abashed and made no reply. At this the sage said, ‘Hearken, friend, do not injure anybody in future.’ The snake bowed and nodded assent. The sage went his own way and the snake entered his hole, and thenceforward began to live a life of innocence and purity without even attempting to harm any one. In a few days all the neighborhood began to think that the snake had lost all his venom, and was no more dangerous, and so every one began to tease him. Some pelted him, others dragged him mercilessly by the tail, and in this way there was no end to his troubles. Fortunately the sage again passed by that way, and seeing the bruised and battered condition of the good snake, was very much moved, and inquired the cause of his distress. At this the snake replied, ‘Holy sir, this is because I do not injure any one, after your advice. But alas! they are so merciless!’ The sage smilingly said, ‘My dear friend, I simply advised you not to bite any one, but I did not tell you not to frighten others? Although you should not bite any creature, still you should keep every one at a considerable distance by hissing at him.’
    Sun, for the Open Source, can find a lot to hiss about. Of the 235 proprietary inventions, it is possible that several are as ‘original’ as the Windows desktop and Direct X. (Direct X drew inspiration? from 3D acceleration, Windows coincidentally resembled? the look and feel of Macintosh.) It was OK to ‘draw inspiration’ from or ‘resemble’ Mac, but not OK to allow open source a few accidents?
    Patrick Grote in the Dot Journal wrote this: Microsoft isn’t really into creating, but in improving. If you think of any major Microsoft achievement, just dig a little below the surface and you will see that its roots are someplace else. In the Pirates of Silicon Valley, both Jobs and Gates quote Picasso – “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
    If you hiss a little bit now and then, maintain a litigation-ready posture on the forefront while being wise so as not to be actually litigious, your business partner wouldn’t dare. Because all these ‘violations’ if true or exaggerated, accidental or coincidental pale against all the piracy that built up this valuable – no sarcasm here – private enterprise (or for that matter a few competitive open source enterprises)
    I am not sure about the judicial validity of Eben Moglen’s argument that software is a mathematical algorithm and as such not patentable. In the era of a World Economy that to a certain extent revolves around intellectual property, even Open Source may have a lot to lose if such an argument is put forth.
    It requires a bit of noise. The litigious would at least need to know that you have a point that you choose not to make. Now they think that the Open Source doesn’t have a point or think that open source is stunned.
    Sun has to make a bit of noise about HISTORICAL and continuing violations by Microsoft – provable and arguable – while secretly be willing to drop charges.
    (This might appear to contradict a previous comment I wrote which was in overwhelming agreement with your free advice to the litigious. Yes, it does, because contradictions reflect reality, and an absolute position is impossible and unreal, pretentious and ignorant. What I wrote was true. What I am writing is true.)

  27. John P. Johnson

    Those who fear change will suffer from it. Those who embrace change will benefit
    from it. Hardware is a commodity, and as such there is much competition and not much growth in profit. Software is IP, J.K.Rollins became rich writing stories.
    Very creative and very profitable. Which business model makes the most sense?
    We need hardware, be it CPU’s or printing presses. It’s what you do with the hardware that counts.

  28. Will

    This is a great post….Do you mean Sun recommend OpenOffice, not StarOffice ?

  29. Matthew Flaschen

    I’m glad to see that you’re still committed to free software and innovation, rather than litigation. I hope there’s no special reason you singled out Ubuntu and Red Hat (perhaps just because they’re successful?), and that you would use your patents to defend the whole free software community. One way to protect GNU/Linux as a whole from patent threats is to donate a few patents to the Open Invention Network (http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/about.php). That would do a lot to demonstrate your commitment.

  30. Sun is obviously admired for their committment to open source. Keep it up and you’ll not regret it. Some of us still support your committment.

  31. Insane

    What is missing here, again, is — how are you supposed to make money off “open office” and other free open source SW?
    The new media companies make money by selling ads (they attract a lot of eyeballs). But your new software venture will have a hard time to generate any profit.
    As a consumer, I am happy to have free product. But as an investor, I demand the answer how you plan to generate return from giving products away for free. The the kind of blanket, non-specific answer that you have been providing.

  32. Does this, “and yes, we’d use it to defend Red Hat and Ubuntu, both” imply Sun may join or pledge patents to the Open Invention Network?

  33. Jonathan,
    Do you mean “Pune” when you said, “an entrepreneur in Punay” in your last sentence? Or is “Punay” some place I haven’t heard of?
    Keep up the good work, SUNW will make money, loads of it.
    Good post, as always!

  34. Interesting article. Changing ones view of what ones product is turns a potential competitor (Google) into a partner.

  35. Adam

    Just want to say thanks to Sun for getting it.
    Now “GPLv2 and later” Solaris 😉

  36. William R. Walling

    “This ‘rusty’ old soul believes our masses all to often entrust major media with reporting their version of news worthy content.
    American’s have an extremely short memory regarding media within history,
    recall the instance N.Y.’s own ‘Grey Lady’ reported RFK’s murder on page three THREE days AFTER this event took place during 1968.
    I would suggest reading multiple international news reporting internet sites for timely information.
    There lay a DIVERSE PLANET!

  37. David Collier-Brown

    Looking at my favorite newspaper, the Globe and Mail, I notice that they’re both flourishing and getting awards for the depth of their analyses and features, which suggests something interesting for the computing community.
    People pay good money for the Globe for the extra value they get over radio and television news: the Globe staff spend lots of time and effort on their analyses, and the it shows in the quality of the product. If they get something wrong, the large community raps them over the knuckles in the letters column, which functions in much the same way as “many eyes makes all bugs shallow” in our industry. But the real value is the extra time to put into investigation, paid for by the beneficiaries of the investigation.
    The same can and does apply to the computer industry: the larger community contributes brilliance, eyeballs and needs. The employees contribute depth and concentration of vision. And we’re all the beneficiaries of both.

  38. Jae Stutzman

    Bravo. It is great to see such thinking among leaders. I liked your interview as well. It takes courage to be a leader. Your courage will shape the industry for years to come.

  39. Hear, hear! It’s refreshing to hear you speak so openly about the need for open standards. I wonder, would you be willing to sign a pledge not to publish information in a closed format? See the bytesfree.org pledge

  40. Haren Visavadia

    It’s no secret going completely proprietary with exclusive control is the best way to become the most hated.
    I really consider OpenSolaris under GPL an act of desperation, you have to remember there are other aspects apart from the license.
    Hint: compare and contrast OpenSolaris with say Ubuntu project ignore the licensing.
    I can see quite a few barriers to adoption of OpenSolaris and these have nothing to do with its license.
    Insane, you can generate revenue from Open Source, think beyond the product, for example Sun can sale support, branded CDs with the software, customisation, developer workstation, T-Shirts with Sun’s logo, can provide installation engineer etc.

  41. vruz

    Nice article, Jonathan. It’s nice to see Sun back.
    This is how you were perceived back in 2005,

    some commentary I made about old-Sun (and you) in Groklaw

    You could say you have come a long way since then, in record time, so congratulations for that. A mere week after releasing Java under the GPL, RedHat announces they will be filling in the spaces as required in the OpenJDK.
    So you’ve turned a foe into a good friend.
    IcedTea, anyone ?
    That’s precisely what will keep you alive and kicking, and may bring a different fate for Microsoft.
    Whilst we’re at it, a brief note to the editor:
    The city name is São Paulo.


    Keep up the great work !

  42. George

    As one who has worked in both industries (newspapers and software) it’s a great analogy. BTW, OpEd is short for “opposite the editorial page.” That’s where these longer opinion pieces typically run.

  43. I’m in love with OpenOffice for the longest time. Whenever I reinstall my legit copy of Windows (currently on Vista), and I didn’t buy no such things as Microsoft Word and etc…, where do I turned to for help? I go to OpenOffice.org. Click here, click there, and wow, I got the software that rival to Microsoft Office Suite, and able to use it for free.
    By the way OpenOffice is working on Vista also!

  44. Italy here.
    Let me say thank you for your and Sun’s attitude. Many computer users, sysadmins and developers in my country begin to realize what you have explained so well.
    I hope that Sun will be rewarded by the market.

  45. oomu

    >What is missing here, again, is — how are you supposed to make money off “open office” and other
    >free open source SW?
    simple :
    for example, without openoffice, I would NEVER be able to work my office document with a linux sold by sun or a sparc station sold by sun . now I can. and yes it helps to keep alive some unix/linux/solaris systems
    for example, when you see sun, you see Java and one day or an other you will buy a java sun product or support or certification, because sun is ahead on that market
    without sun engaging in all aspect of free software, people will be more and more forced to .Net . you see, .NET will never sold a sun server. Java can.
    for java, you need also a real ecology of software to allow your java developpers to be able to work on other aspect of the job. for example project management, corporate groupware and so on.
    for that, you need solaris/linux software, for that, sun needs (as ibm or others) to _create_ that ecology.
    openoffice is a way
    improvement in Gnome desktop is an other
    in the end, it allows people to continue to use the others _commercial_ products of sun.
    without an ecology system you cannot sell hardware.
    Free Software is a way to revive an ecology of software without the damn windows and all the closed market.
    go ask to SGI if selling windows servers and desktop was a smart move. I’m sure SUN was very interested by the SGI experiment.

    Schwartz here explains you thanks to openoffice and others initiative the sun brand is Alive (young mad people as me knows sun is not dead as I believed in 90s) and it allows to sell _others_ stuff. it allows to give more value to others product marginalized by microsoft office . it’s only one example.

  46. Sridhar Yerramreddy

    Open-source is transforming the way companies are planning their future IT budgets…
    Sun along with other groups such as OSS should be highly commended for their efforts supporting open-source momentum. Note that false propagandas and thugs were never remembered in history for good things.. Microsoft has no place in the market of collective intelligence nor does that company possess any brain-trust to make any difference that is worth 5 cents in technology…

  47. Also a 2 newspaper a day reader

    You learn something new everyday. I thought “OpEd” stood for the section of the paper that included OPinions and “EDitorials”, but now I know better.

  48. Ramanathan

    Thanks Jonathan for your post.
    I got introducted to U*x systems with Sun workstations (ultra 10/20/40, way back in 1990s), and then moved to GNU/Linux systems (starting with Slackware, now running Fedora Core 5).
    Like many others around the world, I owe my loyalty to Unix for the simple tools that it provides and the stability that comes alongwith it. Overcoming initial aversions was the major obstacle, but after crossing this hurdle, I strongly realize the benefits of these tools over Windows systems.
    As someone in the previous post had asked, how does one earn revenue from FOSS. I do not want to dive into details but would like to highlight one product : it is Subversion (no, am not paid for this promotion) and the company, COLLABNET, that is bundling services around this tool.
    Blogginginvestor : To the best of my knowledge, I think Jonathan meant “Pune”, a city fast growing (though not fast as Bangalore) in IT, and ITES sectors; it is located not far from Mumbai in India.
    Very recently, I received two copies of OpenSolaris. Thanks Sun for your prompt and bonus shipments. Will be trying them out this weekend.

  49. Bruce Rothermal

    Hi Jonathan
    I read your article and agreed with your observations of how publishing is changing. Companies put most of their efforts into providing the site or means of publishing content and the community provides the content. For that matter I’ve been watching the same trend in more than publishing (newspaper style). The same is happening in entertainment – video and music download on demand, and Internet purchases. The whole time I read your article I was wondering why if content can be changed to the public. why can’t the systems to provide the content become something that Sun does. I understand that Sun provides the individual tools but why not the entire workshop. There could be publishing house software packaged with hardware, video and music streaming systems. These whole systems could be run by publishers and storefront entrepreneurs that know their specialties but don’t know software systems. With of course the Sun logo prominently displayed on each website.

  50. Laura Davenport

    Loved the comparison – well done! Your very well-written, easy to understand (for a non-techie), and insightful blog makes me proud to be a Sun employee! I’m going to download Open Office for my iMac now – and encourage friends and family to do the same!

  51. Releasing Java under GPL was very very smart. While most people really don’t understand GPL, It is THE most business friendly license on earth.
    When you license a software under GPL, you virtually establish a monopoly in that area. I wish SUN had licensed Java, Solaris and Openoffice under GPL much earlier. SUN would have created a monopoly by now, and crushing your proprietary competitors out of business.
    Good news is, you still have time and other “smart” executives are working on suing their own users.
    Good work and Good Luck.

  52. Adam Henson

    Thank goodness a magnificent company like Sun has someone with as much class as Johnathan at the wheel. My workplace has thousands of Sun servers, and Solaris is clearly the best OS in the world. Thanks Johnathan for supporting Solaris and open source software. – You rock!!

  53. Hans Breitbarth

    I have three Sun platforms which have been idly collecting dust in a corner since Sun announced reconciliation efforts with Microsoft. I suddenly find myself motivated to power them up and rediscover Solaris.

  54. Jodie Luu

    Great article! I’m impressed. I’ve just graduated from the National University of Singapore. During my course on Communications and New Media, we had been discussing on intellectual property rights and the open source trend. We had also had lots of discussions about new media and traditional media. But surprisingly none of us saw the link between these two aspects.
    Looking forward to more thought=provoking posts.

  55. Gil

    You have a point, papers like the Mercury News should have bought Craigslist instead of competing against them, likewise I think Sun should buy MySQL, Ubuntu, Red Hat and EnterpriseDB instead of competing. Gil

  56. José Fruta

    It’s São Paulo. And the Portuguese version of the weblog, it’s actually Portuguese from Brazil.

  57. So to realize the logical conclusion of this “open” realignment, you’ll need to give up the “shares in Sun” paradigm for the “shares in open source coders” one. They’ll need to be a New York Tip Jar Exchange, of course. 😉 Seriously, there is still some economic disconnect in continuing to allow anyone other than the users and the contributors to have the authority to set the value of the stock of any open software firm. Further meditation required…

  58. michael

    I like the things coming out of Sun these days. I wish you guys well. I like the idea of competing based on strength of product and not perceived strength of threat.

  59. Anton Kratz

    Traditional newspapers are still the major source for new, original information and content; yes, blogs may produce own content, but without newspapers, radio and TV news they simply would not exist. Blog, at least those that are above the usual MySpace-level where people describe their daily lives, usually just comment on news and content which have been forst reported and generated by journalists and news agencies and then are distributed by newspapers, TV, radio. Your blog is of course different, you produce original content, but that’s because you have access to information others don’t.

  60. Well, thanks to SUN for all that good work in the opensource area. Special thanks for OpenOffice. I think it is the only reason for MicroSoft to improve their office product (if they do).
    And it is a big milestone for linux and solaris on their way to the customers desktop. Just as note: The government of Munich/Germany is currently trying to migrate from MS to OO (including linux also).
    Thanks again for making technology free!

  61. This is a little off topic, but related to Openoffice.org/Staroffice. I am a heavy user of Openoffice.org and Staroffice. Thanks to SUN for open sourcing it and supporting its development.

    Users of Openoffice.org have requested for a feature similar to MS outline view in OO. A feature request has been filed and can be viewed at


    Some people have indicated this is one of the shop stoppers for adoption and use by business types and many people have have shown interest in the feature.
    This was filed 5 years ago and has received the highest number of votes from the user community. Apparently, OO requires some decent amount of work before this feature can be supported. This is explained in


    I believe this is one another IMPORTANT area where Openoffice.org/Staroffice can incorporate functionality that will surpass the functionality provided by MS Office. Could your company please allocate some additional developer resource to add this specific feature to Openoffice.org/Staroffice ? This user community would be highly appreciative of this.



  62. The whole time I read your article I was wondering why if content can be changed to the public.NET will never sold a sun server. Java can. for java, you need also a real ecology of software to allow your java developpers to be able to work on other aspect of the job. for example project management, corporate groupware and so on. for that, you need solaris/linux software, for that, sun needs (as ibm or others) to _create_ that ecology.

  63. Dear Jonathan,
    I’m a developer from China. Does SUN have any programs to help java developers creating their own open source java projects? Thanks a lot!

  64. [Trackback] What if Open Office really were a solid enterprise alternative to Microsoft Office? The best defense may indeed be a good offense.

  65. Colin B.

    Jonathan, I swear that every time you open your mouth, stupidity escapes, and Sun’s stock price goes up. I’m not sure what to make of this.
    First of all you make a very good point about the difference between staff-generated media and user-generated media. Then you suddenly equate online media to the latter. The web was originally a publishing medium, and there are a lot of sites out there owned by print media which are journalist-created, editor-released, traditional content. Online. There is nothing particularly unique about online media, other than that it makes BOTH styles of content publishing easier, and therefore the user-generated content increases faster, since the barrier to entry was previously higher.
    “The market accords a far higher value to the on-line aggregation sites than print media (just think, how many venture capitalists fund newspapers?)”
    This is silly. Venture capitalists invest in aggressive growth fields. Traditional newspapers are established and stable, and not in the scope of venture capital funding. It has nothing to do with the credence of the media. (I am almost certain that you would find most people still trust newspapers more than online information.)
    Then you go on to say, “Now, traditional media could certainly take another tack. They could sue the new/technology media companies, claim they’re stealing readers by violating patents held by traditional media. Imagine, “We patented text in columns! Classified ads in boxes! Captions on pictures! Headlines in large type!””
    Well, no they couldn’t. They couldn’t sue because they didn’t patent those things, and they didn’t patent those things, because until recently, they couldn’t. Only in the last five or ten years has the patenting of blatantly obvious and trivial ideas become a reality.
    “Seven years ago, StarOffice and Solaris, to take a couple examples of key products at Sun, were built by our own employees.”
    Fascinating. Seven years ago, StarOffice 5.2 was released, which was a minor bug fix to the externally-developed product (by StarDivision) that Sun had purchased and released for free. Maybe you thought we’d forget about that. Maybe you weren’t aware that Sun hadn’t written more than a minute amount of StarOffice code, until they redeveloped it from the ground up, at version 6.0.
    So at the end of the day, I guess my post here proves part of your point–that user content is becoming as important as authored content (for lack of a better term). On the other hand, your article proves that anyone with a computer and an opinion can post whatever they feel like, with no fact checking or accuracy required.
    The medium is irrelevant. Content that has passed through a recognised editor will always carry more weight, because there is some expected measure of accuracy as a result. User-generated content will become far more voluminous, and may end up more valued than it is now, but when the hype dies down, people will still tend to ask, “who is this guy, and why should I believe him?” The new ability of users to provide nearly instantaneous public feedback to authored pieces is an interesting development, because it raises the bar for the authors. Fact-checking becomes more important for anyone who wants to be taken seriously now, and THAT is the biggest change that online media has made.
    And as an aside, very little of this has to do with open-source software.

  66. Colin B. ……… FOX NEWS ………. I rest my case 😉

  67. smathew

    Colin B – thank you for clearing up some of the marketing spin around the virtues of open source business models. While I did have an inkling that Jonathan’s analogy was off the mark I was not smart enough to articulate the reasons why it did not hold water… so thank you for your clarification.

    However, this brings to light some of the perils of using a possibly weak analogy to bolster your business case. If the analogy falls apart people start thinking that your strategy is suspect as well. Open source business models may yet turn out to be inevitable. In Sun’s case my gut feeling is that open source was the only way to go given that they were playing catch up in the software business, had little to lose since they did not have significant market share anyway and was a good fit with their engineering-driven culture. Thats not to say that Jonathan efforts to change Sun’s software business model were not bold or havent worked. Sun seems to have stanched the bleeding in the software area since they adopted this strategy, been able to grow the business (I think), attract more developers and capture mind share amongst the vocal and influential open source community.

    So kudos to Sun for being open to receiving this feedback but I wish they would do a little more due dilligence before latching on to weak analogies because they risk losing credibility with smart people such as Colin B who (wonder of wonders) can think for himself and is not caught up in the feel good marketing hype.

  68. Alex Erikson

    I thought you might want to know that the Singapore military, renowned for its meticulous planning and research before making large-scale decisions, is also migrating its systems away from Microsoft Office towards OpenOffice.

  69. R. Fléchaux

    The comparison is interesting. But I think you miss a point. In the new media you described, who will guarantee the quality and the fairness of the contents.
    For each article posted, should I verify the source of the information ? Has the author an interest to broadcast this information ?
    I think that there is a hype phenomena surrounding UGC (event if it can bring something to the media classical model)
    An other interesting question (without answer for the moment) is : in the UGC media, who will finance investigation, if a media company is only a technological company ?
    In the software industry, you can also translate theese two questions :
    1) Who will guarantee the quality of the code in OSS communities ?
    The answer seems clear today : big companies like Sun ou IBM, in order to sell other products or penetrate new markets.
    (But, in the media market, you won’t find similar motivations)
    2) Is Open Source able to innovate (in the sense of creating really new software with unknown functionnality) ?
    I m not sure of the answer…

  70. Jorge Penteado

    Jonathan, I’m a developer in São Paulo, Brasil. Yesterday USA Today had a front page business article on US tech companies opening branches in Brasil. The article mentioned many of your competitors, including Dell. I was disappointed that Sun was not included in the list of companies that are taking advantage of Brasil’s booming economy and talented developer community. We have many committed Java developers here, and we support Sun strongly. As you know we are always very vocal at JavaOne, and Sun TechDays. We are one of Sun’s most loyal developer communities. I think Sun has a presence in many other growth centers, like China and India, but not Brasil. What are you waiting for?

  71. How about offering OpenOffice via Sun Global Desktop as a service hosted by you for, say, $50 per seat per year? This would tie nicely with your JES subscriptions.

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