John Markoff in the New York Times writes about Sun’s new Linux push. I spoke with Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz last week, and he made similar points to the ones he does in the article. Sun thinks Microsoft is vulnerable to Linux-based competition on the desktop, with StarOffice + Ximian’s Evolution competing against Office, and a zero-config Linux box taking on the PC. To be precise, Sun thinks there is a segment of the market that will move away from Office on the basis of cost and ease of administration. Consumers and business professionals will stick with what they know. Perhaps, though, customers like call centers, schools, governments, and some enterprises care more about total cost of ownership than features, familiarity, and flexibility. At that point, Sun wins. The center of gravity shifts from software, where Microsoft dominates, to scalable, reliable solutions, which is Sun’s strong point.
The jury is out on whether this will work. Previous efforts to unseat Wintel on the basis of price/performance all failed. Today there is one market for desktop software, not the two Sun envisions. Microsoft is pushing in the other direction, in conjunction with Intel and Dell. It wants there to be one market for server software as well, because then it can undercut Sun’s margins on the high end.