Here comes the Sun!

Sun Microsystems is a maverick among the enteprise pack.  Sun management team has adopted a very bold and radical business strategy – give away the software for free and make money on hardware/systems.

Jonathan Schwartz wrote in his blog

Why don’t you just stop giving your software away?

Because we prioritize developer adoption. Let me give an example.

Last week, we saw a very high profile media company raise a considerable sum of money. They had not otherwise been on our radar. I sent a note to the head of our global sales team, given the fundraising had cited a growing infrastructure buildout, and asked if we’d made contact.

He said no, but we were immediately reaching out – and it turns out they’re completely built around MySQL.

So before we arrived, before we were engaged, and before they began building out a large infrastructure, the MySQL team had scored a design win – ahead of the proprietary competition. What should we have charged them beforehand? No matter what it was, they wouldn’t have used the product – startups and developers don’t pay for software. But here’s a diffrent question: what would we have paid them to select MySQL over the proprietary alternatives before embarking on a massive expansion?

Right question. We didn’t pay them, the MySQL team earned their adoption. Will they buy a license now? Maybe not, but we’ll be well positioned if and when they, like Facebook or Nokia or the New York Times, do. And in the interim, it costs us nothing for the reference. I was with a bunch of startups at our StartupCamp this morning, and asked how many folks in the audience *didn’t* use free software… no hands were raised. Why are we focused on startups? Because we’re focused on all developers, in big companies and small.

Interesting.  Jonathan’s move is unprecedentend and in a way counter to conventional wisdom on wall-street.  One of the analyst, Trip Chowdury, termed it as a “fairy-tale”.   As you migh recall, Bill Clinton used the same term to describe Obama’s campaign.   For Obama, the fairy-tale is about to come true.  WIll it be the same for Mr. Schwartz?  I certainly think so.


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