Friday, May 05, 2006

Sun's Gift to Linux

According to a recent article on ZDNet, Sun plans to remove the distribution restrictions from its Java Runtime Environment. Now developers and solution providers that use Java programs can provide the golden standard of Sun's JRE to their customers without the customer burden of annoying licensing and download routines. Without these cumbersome restrictions, Linux developers that were formerly cautious on Java might find themselves making a different decision in light of Sun's JRE beneficence.

As with the many gifts that Sun has provided to Linux in the past (OpenOffice, sponsoring GNOME development, buying Cobalt for $2B, making SPARC expensive and slow so customers adopt Linux instead), I have not quite figured out how this latest gift benefits Sun. I suppose that fewer restrictions on Java resulting in more Java programs in the market makes for a bigger market overall for Sun's wares, but I don't know if Java growth still correlates to Sun growth in the current environment.

I shared this sentiment with a friend and colleague of mine, Nathan Thomas, and he asked me if I had ever heard of the Underpants Gnomes from the Comedy Central show Southpark. I had not, so Nathan pointed me to wikipedia to fill in the details. It seems that the Gnomes steal underpants as part of a three step business plan:

1. Collect Underpants

2. ???

3. Profit!

Rather than looking a gift horse in the mouth by questioning the motives of the giver, let's just thank Sun for helping advance the cause of Linux one more time and hope the market trend lines associated with Linux get yet another boost from Sun's actions. Perhaps the questions regarding motivation and business models that perplex all of us that watch Sun from a distance are more clear to those inside the Sun organization.

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