I’ve spoken before about the value of brand – this post is a good example. And I wanted to follow up with a few more thoughts, and an important shift in how Sun (NASDAQ:SUNW) presents itself to the world – and more importantly, how the world now presents itself to Sun.
Sun is blessed to have built two of the best known brands on the internet. The Java brand, and OpenOffice (and its cousin, StarOffice).
Presumably, you saw the relationship we just announced with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), in which they’ll be distributing StarOffice for free as a part of their Google Pack offerings – to put this in context, we’re now distributing multiple millions of copies of OpenOffice every week (and that’s before you count mirror distribution sites). The combined volumes of StarOffice and OpenOffice generate a user and developer community now accelerating well past a hundred million users – across developing economies, developing companies, and across Windows, Solaris, Linux and the Mac OS. As a software product and a brand (all end user software is ultimately both, after all), growing distribution drives opportunity and awareness for everyone involved – for the OpenOffice/StarOffice user and developer community, and as its shepherd on the network, for Sun.
Wherever OpenOffice and StarOffice travel, more users know and trust Sun – what’s that brand or awareness worth, especially among tomorrow’s decision makers? It’s hard to know exactly, but I’d bet more people know Sun via OpenOffice than know us through datatcenters. That’s an astonishing assertion, but with the internet now reaching billions of end users, the number of consumers on the internet dwarfs the number of IT professionals. The numbers are staggering.
But with that said, compared to the Java platform, office productivity is relatively esoteric stuff.
Because Java touches nearly everyone – everyone – who touches the internet. Hundreds of millions of users see Java, and its ubiquitous logo, every day. On PC’s, mobile phones, game consoles – you name it, wherever the network travels, the odds are good Java’s powering a portion of the experience.
What’s that distribution and awareness worth to us? It’s hard to say – brands, like employees, aren’t expenses, they’re investments. Measuring their value is more art than science. But there’s no doubt in my mind more people know Java than Sun Microsystems. There’s similarly no doubt they know Java more than nearly any other brand on the internet.
I know that sounds audacious, but wherever I travel in the world, I’m reminded of just how broad the opportunity has become, and how pervasively the technology and brand have been deployed. Java truly is everywhere.
Ask a teenager if they know Java, and they’ll point to their favorite mobile applications, the video uploader for their social network, or their game console. As for working professionals, I had dinner with a financial analyst a few months ago who said he saw the Java launch experience “a few times a day” when accessing intranet applications – as did tens of thousands of his fellow employees. Daily. Global companies like Google and eBay (and Vodafone and Citigroup) are built on Java, every major PC manufacturer bundles Java upon shipment, as does every mobile phone manufacturer, and tens of millions of developers touch it every day in the world’s IT shops. Students learn it to get college credits for computer science, and there are more Java courses on university campuses than we ever imagined. Wherever it goes, Java brings limitless opportunity – to Sun, and to our partners that develop, use or deploy it.
So what’s that awareness worth? Ask the question a different way – if we wanted to buy that exposure, to touch tens if not hundreds of millions of consumers every single day of the year, across nearly every continent, industry, geography and demographic – what would it cost us? (If you’re in the industry, just do the CPM calculus – the Java launch experience is one of the most pervasively viewed exposures on earth.)
As I said, the number of people who know Java swamps the number of people who know Sun. Or SUNW, the symbol under which Sun Microsystems, Inc. equity is traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange. SUNW certainly has some nostalgic value – it stands for “Stanford University Network Workstation,” and heralds back to Sun’s cherished roots (in academia). Granted, lots of folks on Wall Street know SUNW, given its status as among the most highly traded stocks in the world (the SUNW symbol shows up daily in the listings of most highly traded securities).
But SUNW represents the past, and its not without a nostalgic nod that we’ve decided to look ahead.
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.
And if you wondered why we picked eight strokes for the Java logo, now you know one reason…