Friday, May 22, 2009

Sun. Oracle. Ponytails.

So... Sun. Oracle. And of course Schwartz. Schwartz, Schwartz. Blogging his way through the graveyard, chanting his open source mantra. As if clinging to all the right buzzwords would make up for not having an actual strategy. "I'm a CEO with a blog! How can my company fail??"

There are lots of companies that get by without a strategy, at least for a while. Hell, I used to work for one. But if you're going to get into the business of being a VAR for a product (free software) whose starting cost is zero and whose cost of duplication is zero, you better have a Goddammed plan of how you're going to add enough value to be attractive.

That's why, even as I care less about free software, I do continue to admire Redhat. They started their business with a plan. And when the market changed and the plan faltered, they got to work on a new plan. This happened to them at least twice, until now Redhat is basically a large consulting firm - which is where most free software VARs seem to end up. But hey, as long as they're making money at it, there's nothing wrong with that.

Sun, on the other hand, seemed to get sucked into the open source zeitgeist of the last decade, rather than deliberately enter it. By 2006 when Schwartz became CEO, the vicious round of consolidations and closures among open source companies was ancient history and he should have been able to learn from it. Instead he seemed to think it was still 1996 and he threw more money at open source products without any clear strategy that I could see. That's why Redhat grew from a dorm room operation to a successful corporation, while Sun dwindled from being a key player to being an easy acquisition.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Thread Across the Ocean

A Thread Across the Ocean was (to my surprise) the only book I could find that tells the story of laying the first transatlantic communications cable. Luckily, it's a good book. It's a classic story of 19th-century ambition to conquer nature (and get rich doing it) and this book tells it well. Recommendation: acquire.

See also: Cryptonomicon.