Can Sun grow?

Sun has shown it can cut costs and make itself interesting again. But can it grow?

Larry Dignan over at ZDNet asks the right question about Sun: can it grow? It just closed a good quarter, but with 1% growth, there's a lot of top-line room for improvement.

So how to get there from here?

I personally believe that Sun needs a stronger software story. I don't mean the licensing behind the software - Sun's open-source strategy is the right way to challenge the incumbents (though a little SaaS wouldn't hurt, following Dave Rosenberg's disruptive business models analysis), and Sun is primarily in the challenger role in every software market in which it competes (Java being the exception, but Java also not directly bringing in much money).

It seems reasonable to assume that Sun will need another quarter or so to stabilize its cost-cutting measures, but it won't have much more than that to start to accelerate top-line growth. This likely means an acquisition, because it's hard to see Sun's current software portfolio delivering a big increase in sales.

Given the need for near-term growth, it's unlikely that acquiring an open-source middleware or applications company would do much to help it (though I do think Greenplum would be an interesting acquisition for Sun). What about Vignette (web content management), which has been preening itself to be acquired for over a year? Or even BEA?

Long term, I think open source is the answer. (No surprise there.) Short term...? It's not so clear.

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