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Many threads discuss how Microsoft will be consuming Netscape's business, Oracle's business, IBM's business, etc. etc...
Everyone seems to love discussing how the Redmond juggernaut will consume the market share of the other major players in the computer-technology industry. But, truth be told, Novel and Apple are the only two large companies that Microsoft has ever done this to (this is not for lack of trying, however).
What is conspicuously absent from these discussions, however, is the very real threat that companies such as Sun Microsystems pose to Microsoft.
Sun grew to it's current fortune by selling X-Terminals (identical in all ways to the WinTerms that Microsoft is advocating for 1998 - 10 years after Sun was making millions on them), then workstations and finally large scale systems and supercomputers.
With the advent of the NC, Sun is returning to it's roots. It will be selling low cost network computing devices in market segments that it understands and grew up in. The WinTerm strategy of Microsoft's is pure silliness to Sun, who sold similar devices 10 years ago. Sun is not concerned about WinTerms competing with NC's in this segment (which it understands much better than Microsoft). Well, everyone knows how much damage Microsoft will sustain if NC's start moving into the enterprise in high volume.
On a separate front, while Microsoft is trying to convince the world that NT is ready to battle with Unix, Sun has been quietly building a class of departmental servers to replace NT. This is a segment of the market that has traditionally been occupied by Novel, and more recently by NT. The first Sun computers in this space will ship in August. Sun has priced these systems cheaper than NT, they can interoperate with Microsoft networking protocols, Novel networking protocols, etc.. They are based on rugged tried and tested Sun enterprise technology and are designed to snap right into existing Microsoft networks. In fact, these systems can be installed onto the same commodity equipment that NT was installed on (i.e. Intel based PC's).
The attempt to foray into Sun's client-server market-place is being met with failure after failure due to the low reliability and performance characteristics of the current incarnation of NT as a server.
Meanwhile, the Java programming language from Sun has captured the mindshare of the development community. With this (very significant) movement of developer mindshare comes applications that are written to run in any environment. In other words, lock-down to Microsoft products is being eliminated at an alarming rate.
Invisibly and behind the scenes, Sun is growing it's software development staff at very high rates. It is worth noting that Sun has more employees than Microsoft, and similar revenues (but nowhere near the stock price).
It appears to me that Sun is positioning itself very cleverly to cause massive damage to the Microsoft empire. With allies such as IBM and Oracle, technologies such as Java, the Java NC and Solaris based solutions that are cheaper more reliable replacements for NT as departmental servers, Sun may have a chance.
At Microsoft, executives like to joke about a captain Ahab club in the Silicon Valley, where membership is achieved by Silicon Valley executives trying and failing to kill Mobey Dick (Microsoft).
What they don't seem to realize is that there is a spear in the hands of one Silicon Valley company (wielded by Scott McNealy?) that has Mobey Dick's name on it.
Sun may not kill Microsoft, but my bet is that they will tame and domesticate it.
SUNW, MSFT, INTC, ORCL, IBM, HP, AAPL, NOVL, NSCP, SGI
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