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IBM sleeps over at Sun's house, tries to keep Red Hat in its place

Why are IBM and Sun discovering "choice" decades into their attempts to restrict customer choice?

IBM has been trying for many years to force Red Hat into its "proper place." First it United Linux. Swing and a miss! Then it was OSDL. Whiff! Strike two! IBM even tried to shore up Novell with a $50 million investment in the SUSE creator. Strike three! You're out!

But this is IBM of the bottomless wallet (and long-term vision), so "out" is never quite "out." Today, IBM held its nose and sidled up with long-term enemy, Sun Microsystems, to go for strike number four (or a base hit). Is there more to the deal than Red Hat envy? Of course.

But you can bet that it's a key component. Still, I like the added choice this offers customers, even if I don't buy the argument that this is why Sun and IBM did the deal.

Sun and IBM, of course, tried to position it as one big customer lovefest. These same customers that the two companies have tried to lock in for decades are now to be released because CHOICE IS GOOD!!!! As Savio writes over at InfoWorld [Savio does not, by the way, speak for IBM, though he sounds a lot like the official party line ;-)]:

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Schwartz and Zeitler (IBM) that this deal is about customer choice. A few questions on the conference call asked:
"Won't this deal increase the likelihood of an IBM HW customer who chooses Solaris to later move to Sun hardware? Or a Solaris customer who chooses IBM HW to later choose AIX or Linux?"

The answer from Sun & IBM was:

"You're better off to meet customers with solutions that they are seeking versus trying to restrict the customer to one stack or another".

Choice is a wonderful thing.

Indeed it is. But it would be a bit more credible as an argument if these companies had a long history of providing it. At least Sun has been on an open-source tear of late, lending credibility to its intentions. IBM didn't discover "choice" until its Global Services business grew big enough that it discovered it had to provide something beyond IBM hardware and software to customers or the business wouldn't scale.

They're not bad companies. I'm an admirer of both. I just don't like "because the customers demanded it!" to be the very belated answer to a question that customers have been asking for decades, with no affirmative response. Why does the customer's choice matter to these companies today, but it didn't 10 years ago? Or a year ago?

I guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, as it were, but pardon me if I'm not reveling in the newfound discovery that customers like choice. Red Hat and other open-source vendors have been providing that for years. But maybe that's the very problem this deal is designed to solve.