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Sun Microsystems On the Couch

By Nicholas Petreley
October 13, 2003 12:00 PM ET

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Sun Microsystems enters the office of noted therapist Dr. Sickmund Fraud and lies down on the couch. "Doc, I think I'm having an identity crisis," Sun confides.
Dr. Fraud: Well, they say recognizing the problem is the first step toward addressing the problem. So how long have you had this problem?
Sun: What problem?
Dr. Fraud: Ah, I see. I think it might be helpful to try hypnosis. Watch the watch as it swings. You are getting sleepy. Your eyelids are getting heavy. You are entering a deep sleep. You are in a deep, deep . . .
Sun: . . . slump.
Dr. Fraud: Good, now tell me about yourself.
Sun: I am a hardware company; I own a mansion and a yacht.
Dr. Fraud: And how did you get this mansion und yacht?
Sun: I sold Sparc servers during the dot-com boom. They run Solaris, the best operating system for business.
Dr. Fraud: I see. And why is this Solaris the ideal operating system for the business?
Sun: I didn't say that. Linux is the ideal platform for businesses looking for cost-effective and powerful edge-networking solutions, like my Web site says.
Dr. Fraud: So this Solaris is the legacy, and you are building your future on this Linux?
Sun: Are you kidding? Linux is nothing more than a hobbyist operating system, built like a jalopy. Solaris is the future.
Dr. Fraud: So this Solaris is the best, just not powerful?
Sun: No, Solaris on my Sparc-based systems is far more powerful than Linux.
Dr. Fraud: So what you are saying is that Linux is more cost-effective on x86.
Sun: No, Solaris is essentially free on x86.
Dr. Fraud: I think I understand. Solaris is ideal on Sparc, and Linux is ideal on x86.
Sun: No, Solaris is ideal on x86, too.
Dr. Fraud: Then this Linux is no good at all?
Sun: Of course it's good. Linux is the ideal platform for businesses looking for cost-effective and powerful edge-networking solutions, like my Web site says.
Dr. Fraud: But you said before . . . ach, never mind. And why is a hardware company so obsessed about the operating systems?
Sun: I'm not a hardware company, I'm a software company focused on Java.
Dr. Fraud: Ah, now we are getting somewhere. I am speaking now with the software company, no? And do you also own a mansion und a yacht?
Sun: No. I have a condo in east Newark and rent a rowboat now and then.
Dr. Fraud: And being the software company, you focus on the java because programmers drink java to work the long hours. . . .
Sun: No, Java is a product I sell. It used to be Oak.
Dr. Fraud: So now you are a furniture company which used oak. And what is it you use now? Pine?
Sun: No, but some of us use Balsa, since Pine is outdated as an e-mail program. Regardless, I'm talking about Java as in my latest project, the Sun Java Desktop.
Dr. Fraud: I see. So this balsa-wood desktop furniture is what you sell now that the dot-com boom is over?
Sun: No, the Sun Java Desktop is software. Java is a programming language and platform-neutral runtime.
Dr. Fraud: Ah, I see. So you make money because this Sun Java Desktop software runs on the Sparc hardware, no?
Sun: No. It runs on x86.
Dr. Fraud: And you are using this superior Solaris on x86?
Sun: No, the desktop runs Linux.
Dr. Fraud: Ach, I see, but the desktop is written in Java.
Sun: No, it runs GNOME on Linux.
Dr. Fraud: And why is it called the Java Desktop?
Sun: Well, it does include the Java runtime.
Dr. Fraud: Ach, I see. Well, the clock on the wall says that our time is up. (Snaps his fingers.) Wake up!
Sun: So what's the verdict, doc? Do I have a serious identity crisis?
Dr. Fraud: No, I'm afraid you lack the one characteristic of those people with a crisis of identity.
Sun: An identity?
Dr. Fraud: Very good. And to which personality should I send the bill?
Nicholas Petreley is a consultant and author in Kansas City, Mo., and founding editor of He can be reached at

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