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Microsoft OEMs: HP, Dell...and Sun

It was inevitable, really. Sun Microsystems finally acknowledged, fully and completely, the power of Microsoft this week. Three years after making peace with Microsoft, pocketing a nice little package of cash and opening up to interoperability with Redmond, Sun has become a Microsoft OEM. The former rivals announced this week that Sun will begin building x64 serves with Windows Server 2003 software installed at the factory.

And so ends, once and for all, the Sun rebellion, that determined but quixotic quest to compete with Microsoft and Windows straight up. The rebellion's been quiet for a while, of course -- it effectively ended in 2004 when Microsoft paid Sun almost $2 billion to settle an antitrust quarrel and Sun opened its products to Microsoft technology. It got even weaker, arguably, when Sun threw its Solaris operating system and Java technology into the open source universe. Now, though, Sun's just another company shipping servers that run Windows. It had to happen some time.

Well, except that, as the first story linked notes, Sun is still a big player in the server market, checking in behind IBM and HP. So for Microsoft partners, this week's agreement could open a fairly large new window (oops -- that ended up a pun) of opportunity. And, generally speaking, it should ease the hassle of wedging Windows onto a Sun server since the servers will now ship with Windows installed. Smiles all around, then...right?

Surely only the most ardent followers of the Sun rebellion -- and there couldn't be many of them left, given that Sun is just recovering from a fairly long and large financial down period -- are unhappy about this. Well, there also might be a few partners who've made some money off of installing Windows on Sun servers who are less than happy, too. But they should be able to adapt to Sun being a Microsoft OEM pretty easily.

There's an interesting little wrinkle to the deal, too: The two companies are promising interoperability of their respective OSes with each other's virtualization offerings -- a sign that Microsoft is backing up some of its talk about virtualization.

Sun's sensible capitulation looks like good news, then, for the most part. We'll miss the old rivalry a little bit, though, dormant as it has been the last few years. At least we'll always have our old highlight reels of Scott McNealy and Bill Joy taking swipes at Microsoft. Maybe someday, when there's a technology-industry version of ESPN Classic, those old barbs will find a home.

What opportunities does Sun OEMing Windows open up for you as a partner? Tell me at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on September 13, 2007 at 11:54 AM


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