Sun's Project Mercury

Cringely has a new column out discussing Jonathan Schwartz’s Project Mercury intitiative at Sun. The basic idea is to drop the price of Sun’s entireprise hardware in return for service commitments. Cringely is skeptical this will work, but for entirely operational reasons: he doesn’t think Sun can realign the incentives of its employees, particularly the sales force. That’s a real challenge, but it’s one Jonathan expressly acknowledges in him email. Sun needs to get the execution right, but that doesn’t make the strategy wrong.

The broader question I have is just what’s so novel here. IBM has for years thrived by emphasizing services and open source, to the detriment of proprietary hardware margins, and HP has basically copied that strategy. Apple does the same in the consumer market, using iTunes, automatic software updates, and .Mac as the lynchpins of its resurgence.

I think I’m missing something. And it’s not just something about Sun, it’s something about the future model for the IT industry.