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Sun's biggest shareholder looks to 'maximize value'

Company appears to be set to change into a very different company, with its hardware business the most likely target for an asset sale.

Correction, 11:08 a.m. PDT: This story initially misstated the source of a report about Southeastern. It is IDG.

Something is about to happen at Sun. Unfortunately, no one outside the company seems to know what that "something" is.

As reported in Barron's, Southeastern Asset Management, Sun's largest institutional investor, just upped its stake in Sun to 21.2 percent and recently filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to indicate that it has significant plans for Sun:

The filing says that Southeastern "has talked to" Sun's management, and will have additional conversations with Sun and potentially with third parties "regarding opportunities to maximize the value of the company for all shareholders." Interestingly, the company with this filing changes the status of its filings from 13G, which implies a passive holding, to 13D, in order to "obtain the flexibility to discuss various alternatives."

Is Southeastern planning to take Sun private? Sell off major assets like StorageTek, for which Sun recently had to write down a massive amount of goodwill? Or is it planning to install a new CEO?

No one outside Southeastern seems to know what it has in mind, though IDG has reported Southeastern's belief that Sun is a software company, not a hardware company, and that may mean that Sun hardware will get the boot. Could Sun's increasing focus on open-source software generate outsized returns in the short term? It's unclear, though Larry Dignan of ZDNet is doubtful.

One thing is clear: Sun may look like a very different company over the next six months. For Sun investors, that may be very positive. For its employees...? That's potentially a different story.