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Sun CEO not worried about the future, but probably should be

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz tries to paint a picture of relative security as he looks to the future. The only problem is that future may never come.

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz has posted the first in a series of video blog entries. The message? We're on track here at Sun, and looking forward to a solid future.

I'm neither worried about the role information technology will play in the economy, nor am I worried about the relevance of Sun's offerings. I'm not worried about the future, I'm focused on its arrival date.

This, however, is a big cause for alarm, as ZDNet's Larry Dignan points out:

The revenue gap from morphing Sun, the mostly hardware company today, into Sun, the Red Hat of tomorrow, is about $11.4 billion in annual revenue....Simply put, Schwartz is likely to have a wrenching change ahead as Sun wrestles with its mature business and grows its new ones. It's great that Schwartz isn't worried, but I don't buy it.

I agree, and have suggested before that while Sun's open-source business is growing, it may not grow fast enough to recoup losses in Sun's traditional businesses like hardware. I continue to believe that Schwartz is doing the right things to rejuvenate its brand and jump start its growth, but it may prove to be too little, too late.

Novell, for its part, has the same problem. Even while its Linux business continues to grow, Novell's traditional businesses continue to decline.

So, what should Sun (or Novell, for that matter) do? Given that there is no short-term panacea for long-term decline, I'm not sure that it can do other than what it already is doing. Well, except to divest itself of languishing business units that may perform better elsewhere, like carving out its hardware business to focus on software.

Barring major surgery like this, will Sun run out of time?

I expect Schwartz will talk about this in his Open Source Business Conference keynote later this month. Let's hope he has answers.


Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.