Okay so it's FY05 and this is going to be an important year for Sun. While we face technological challenges and financial cost saving measures, I think the biggest challenge that Sun faces is mainly one of market confidence. Actually, we've got some fine technology and Solaris 10 has got some fantastic new features in it. Financially, our accounts are actually fairly healthy and despite the clamouring for cuts in headcount and investment, we're not in any danger of going bust any time soon.
No, the big issue is that we've got to regain the confidence of the market. Many of our major customers are holding back, waiting for us to "make money" and of course, that's the vicious circle; everyone's waiting for someone else to place those big orders.
Of course, being a publically listed company has its drawbacks because you're then vulnerable to all the speculations of the analysts. Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin group) said the one thing he'd definitely do differently if he had his time over again would be to not float on the stock market. Actually, Timex (the timepiece company) is still a privately owned corporation - no public stock. No matter how well researched or how specious the comments of an analyst, it has a direct impact on our stock price and market presence. We're in the world of the self-fulfilling prophecy where ignorant pessimism can really hurt a company!
Mind you, we don't exactly do ourselves any favours, especially from a marketing perspective. In the ten years I've been at Sun, I've seen some truly surreal approaches to marketing. "Network the Dog" for example, which was just plain dumb. Or the more recent "take it to the nth" which nobody understood. Of course, then there's the complete lack of marketing at all in some places. Aside from a billboard outside London's Heathrow airport, you'll be hard pressed to find any Sun marketing in the UK except maybe in the odd computing rag.
I still think it wouldn't hurt to increase our visibility in EMEA; more tv advertising and so forth. IBM and Microsoft both do it and no, they're not just advertising for the home user! All those decision makers - the CIO's, IT directors, finance directors - what do they do when they come home? Yup, kiss their partner and kids as applicable, grab dinner and switch on the tv! Why should only IBM and Microsoft get their eyeballs, hmm?
Time To Market Pressure
Actually, while I'm having a light rant, I'm going to have a pop at this concept of "time to market pressure". You know, this is when a company rushes to get a new product out the door to capitalize on a market opportunity. Well, I think we should show a little more backbone when it comes to standing up to this "pressure". Why not take a little more time to really polish up the quality of a product? Well, here are some of the arguments I've heard in favour of rushing to market...
The market will move on without us
Oh yeah? What do you think the market was doing for the 18 months or so that we took to develop the product so far? Existing Sun customers are unlikely to throw out their whole infrastructure because we want to take a couple more quarters to get the product into a truly magnificent state. Besides, we should be making the market so hungry for our new features that they'll be waiting, slavering with anticipation, to get their hands on it (besides, we have early access and beta programs, right?) If you ship a poor quality product, you're certainly going to encourage the market to move on without us.
We want to lead, not follow. Make the headlines!
A laudable intent but how much did it cost us, both financially and in terms of negative press, when we then had to fix and/or replace huge quantities of hardware or software because we kicked it out the door too soon?
It's crazy. We've have got some fantastic technology - hardware and software - that can really kick some competitive backside! Don't compromise on quality, for crying out loud! Especially as we absolutely, positively must win back the confidence of our market. If it takes a couple of months more to get it right, then so be it!
So what's it to be? "Late and Great!" or "Quick and Sick!"