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Former Sun CEO tries anew with health start-up

Jonathan Schwartz now is running Picture of Health, stealthy for now but focusing on "innovation and public health."

Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Picture of Health
Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Picture of Health
Picture of Health

Jonathan Schwartz, the chief executive who sold Sun Microsystems to Oracle, is once again in charge of a company, a start-up called Picture of Health for the time being.

Schwartz wasn't very forthcoming about the nature of the start-up, saying on his personal blog Thursday little specifically besides that "We're focusing on the intersection of innovation and public health."

Schwartz gradually ascended through Sun's ranks from its 1996 acquisition of his last start-up, Lighthouse Design, through replacing Sun co-founder Scott McNealy as CEO in 2006. However, He wasn't able to restore Sun's fortunes, which never fully recovered from its dot-com glory days despite attempts to diversify into Intel- and AMD-based server and open-source software.

Schwartz always talked a good game, and he began his sales pitch already for why he thinks the company will be relevant. While at Sun, he said,

"The most exciting (and frankly, the largest) opportunities were those that changed lives, that changed the way you thought about or lived in the world. It wasn't that I didn't love winning SAP deals to consolidate regional bank processes, it's that it was hard to feel an emotional bond to the outcome...

Health is something different.

Everyone cares about it in a deeply personal way (it's tough to say the same about specialized microprocessors). Mums, Dads, children, friends, loved ones, nurses, doctors, even insurance companies and governments--everyone on earth, in one form or another, cares about health and well being.

The company's co-founder is Chief Technology Officer Walter Smith, who most recently co-founded Web design firm Jackson Fish Market but earlier worked on Windows, Internet Explorer, and MSN at Microsoft and on the Newton OS at Apple.

A look at Picture of Health's Web site.
A look at Picture of Health's Web site. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Schwartz said in a New York Times interview that the Picture of Health name is only a placeholder, and apparently not the first. LinkedIn shows the company's name as Informed Biometry.

That page sheds a bit more light on the plans. "Informed Biometry is an innovation company. That means we invent things for a living," it said. "We're building products for consumer audiences. We expect those products to improve people's lives."

And the company, based in Seattle and San Francisco, at least so far has no need for venture capitalists.

"We're well financed. We're also very proud to be 100 percent employee owned," the site said.

Schwartz, who "admits he loves data" on his biography page, appears to be wanting to recreate the technical culture that prevailed at now-defunct places such as Digital Equipment Corp. and Sun and that now is best exemplified by Google.

"WE'RE HIRING (math geeks preferred)," Schwartz tweeted.