I’m pleased to learn of the download rates and apparent adoption of Sun Microsystem’s Solaris 10 as a new alternative in the Open Source world, and even more pleased to read some of the terrific reviews Solaris 10 has garnered in the developer community.
However, I’m a bit baffled by Sun Microsystems President Jonathan Schwartz’s recent note about an Executive Advisory Council he facilitated with some key customers to find out the state of the world for IT developers and architects. In his weblog article, he waxes poetic about how so many of the attendees had been working with Solaris 10 and how there were multiple “developers who admitted their teams built, tested and qualified apps on Solaris, given far better tools and utilities, then ran them on Red Hat to appease those who’ve tied their reputations to it.”
Um, of course if you contact your customers and ask them about their development process, it’s quite likely that you’ll find they’re early adopters of Solaris 10 and are trying to figure out how it integrates into their existing development environment and architecture. Indeed, these very same customers might well already have Solaris 9 running on some SPARC hardware and Solaris 10 is just a logical extension. Certainly it seems a bit forward for Jonathan to suggest that it’s a harbinger of change in the industry and that “The bloom is off the rose with Red Hat.”
But what was most astonishing about Jonathan’s posting is his ending note where he highlighted how out of touch Sun Microsystems has been with its key customer constituent these last few years as the company has lost its way. In his article, he ends with this quote:
It seems so phenomenally obvious to me that if you’re selling a development platform, your key customer is always going to be your developers. Indeed, why bother switching from a proprietary operating system (Solaris 9) to an Open Source operating system (Solaris 10) in the first place, if not to appeal to the increasingly Open Source fanatical developer community that are the core of your customer base?
This is one of those obvious facts of business life — your customer is the center of your company and great companies are customer-centric — that it seems odd to see it presented as some sort of strategic epiphany. Don’t you think that Sun’s competitors have been very focused for the last few years on what their customers need, how to deliver it, and how to ensure that their customers are having great results? And maybe that’s why Sun’s market share keeps declining?
In some sense, this seems to highlight the danger lurking in a corporate blog too, doesn’t it? After all, if this message were part of an internal memorandum to senior management, everyone else would have no clue that prior to this meeting Sun was even less focused on its customers.