Sun and Linux: Why not just buy MandrakeSoft?

In their on-again, off-again relationship with the Linux community, Sun Microsystems has now announced that their branded Linux distribution has been extinguished before it ever even caught a light. This is another weird turn of events in the relationship between Sun and PC-based Solaris, with the first chapter of this latest episode the release of Solaris 8/Intel, then their announcement of, then denial of, then reannouncement of Solaris 9/Intel.

Apparently they just haven’t been able to identify the best Intel-based strategy: now it appears that Solaris 9/Intel might have been replaced by (or might have been?) a Linux distribution. But if so, getting a Linux distro to look 1:1 like Solaris 9 would be more than “a few minor tweaks to Linux”, as they have said.

Meanwhile, apparently you can still buy Solaris 9/Intel (or x86 as they call it, with a nod to retro software naming, I presume), which is baffling. Further, a little bird tells me that Sun’s Ireland-based team is busy working on some Linux projects – perhaps the vaunted, but never-shipped Sun Linux distribution?

What would be most interesting would be for Sun to buy Mandrake Linux: the company has had all sorts of financial woes and even with their latest Linux distro (Mandrake 9) getting good reviews and positive slashdot coverage, they had to file for bankruptcy reorganization. Imagine if MandrakeSoft were a Sun Microsystems company. Most interesting… Sun would get a terrific Linux distribution (that works on SPARC-based architectures too, but that’s another story) known both for its tight integration of GNOME and KDE and for its industry-leading installation process.

Mandrake, for their part, would get a new lease on life and a powerful distribution and media partner (not to mention a perpetual free license to StarOffice / OpenOffice, presumably, among other pearls in the Solaris portfolio). They’d also get professional management, a presence in the business world, and an executive team that just loves to rumble with Linux-arch-rival Microsoft too.

Most importantly, the Linux community would get a significant ally in a big way; Sun Microsystems, more than IBM, more than Digital, more than Hewlett-Packard, more than just about any other major Unix vendor, has always been at the forefront of open source, freeware, and other innovative Unix and GUI developments. They’ve stumbled at times (the overly-restrictive initial NFS licensing terms come to mind) but overall Sun has always lead the Unix industry with their cool factor. After all, the Internet and definitely Linux owes a lot to the innovations and brilliance of the Sun R&D team.

So what about it? Anyone want to place a wager on this acquisition possibility??

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