Why Microsoft Matters

You might imagine that being the technical executive sponsor for Microsoft at Sun would be one of those "challenging" roles, but it also has been a rewarding one (especially working with the likes of Bill Gates and Craig Mundie). The biggest challenges have been in the areas of bridging cultures and business models and, of course, in building trust between two companies that have been and continue to be  (at times, aggressively) competitive.

But at the core, we are both engineering-centric, products-offered companies where everything flows from a long-term, management-dedicated investment in R&D. Tens of thousands of really good engineers, most working on multi-year event horizons.

Microsoft matters because R&D matters.

And from my vantage point, it's been good to see the return in perception of the importance of R&D and resulting innovation in the marketplace. Just look at the rise of Apple, VMware and Google: at the core of all three are great engineers and designers building market-differentiated products. It's also good to see an ebb in the post-bubble conventional wisdom that the only thing that matters is driving cost into the dirt. As if all of of the problems in computing have been solved, and it's all about cost of production --- be it hardware or software. As if...

And that brings me back to our relationship with Microsoft. Our mantra has been "product interop", because at the end of the day, that's what our mutual customers care about. Pragmatically, we will both continue to innovate in our own ways, and continue to strive for differentiated products in the marketplace. And those products, pretty much up and down the stack, are and will be different.

Those differences are precisely the points of value and frustration for our customers. Value from choice, focus and the always heightened pace of innovation that comes from competition. Frustration from what I call "gratuitous incompatibilities": those places where our product stacks touch one another, but don't work well together. Places where we have left problems to be solved as an Exercise for the End-User.

These touch-points have been things such as identity, web services protocols, storage, and systems management. Adding to this list are touch points around the hardware platform itself, especially virtualization.

We've been making a lot of progress on these, and if both Microsoft and Sun matter to you, I'd encourage you to check out our resources and capabilities.

 

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