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Commentary: A step forward for software

Sun's move to establish a single software brand under its Sun One umbrella marks the beginning of a long overdue consolidation of its vision and strategy.

By Yefim Natis and Mark Driver, Gartner analysts

Sun Microsystems has established a single software brand under its Sun Open Net Environment (ONE) umbrella and retired its iPlanet, Forte and other product family names. This move marks the beginning of Sun's long overdue consolidation of its vision and business strategy in the software infrastructure market.

See news story:
Sun puts software under ONE umbrella
Sun announced that it will rebrand several product lines-- iPlanet, Forte, StarOffice and ChiliSoft--as Sun ONE. The move brings Sun's application server and other Internet software, middleware, development tools and office suite under a single marketing program.

Sun has thereby taken a long-overdue step in the right direction. By unifying all of its software products under a single brand name, Sun achieves the following:

•  The company begins to eliminate the widely held confusion and uncertainty about its software strategy.

•  It establishes a material basis for its Sun ONE initiative.

•  Sun retires the older brands that have began to lose momentum--namely, iPlanet, the legacy of the expired Sun-Netscape Alliance, and Forte, acquired in 1999 when Sun purchased Forte Software.

•  It simplifies the Sun sales message.

•  The basis for focusing the organization more and for appointing one executive to lead Sun's software efforts is also created.

By rebranding Forte, Sun establishes a clear vision of how its tools can support its overall e-business platform. Just as when IBM announced its WebSphere Application Developer (an integrated development environment), the Forte rebranding will strengthen Sun's platform message at the expense of its appeal to the best-of-breed Java development community.

However, Gartner believes that the unified brand does not eliminate the challenges Sun faces. Sun continues to describe its software architecture as "integratable," that is Sun offers its own branded products but equally welcomes components from other companies. That message stakes out a good marketing position, but in practice, Sun will likely not compete effectively in the application platform market unless it puts all its effort behind Sun ONE Application Server.

The Sun ONE Application Server, the key product of the Sun ONE line, now trails the application servers of BEA Systems and IBM, and faces a challenge from Oracle's offering. Sun must support alternatives, but to face its competitors, Sun must focus primarily on its own brand and technology.

(For a related commentary on Sun Microsystems, see Gartner.com.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2002 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.