Even a customer whose name Sun provided as a reference to FORTUNE has a hard time saying nice things about the company. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com in San Francisco, says he loves his Sun servers and plans to buy three more, but adds that the company is out of touch with its customers: "They don't know how to sell and market in the modern world, and it's killing them."
McNealy's new crusade may actually be an excellent example of what Benioff is talking about. The we'll-sell-you-everything-in-one-tidy-unit pitch is catchy, but it's hard to find anyone who's buying it-not now, anyway. Corporate customers certainly want cheaper, easier-to-use hardware and software. They also want something else: cost control, which these days means getting their IT from different companies. "At its core Sun is a hardware company, and hardware companies try to lock their customers in," says Marc Andreessen, the erstwhile boy-wonder co-founder of Netscape and current chairman of Opsware, a systems-management company. "Customers remember what that was like, they hated it, and they absolutely refuse to go back to it now."
SUN is trying to do SOMETHING, which is good, but I don't see them headed in the right direction. McNealy keeps hyping his vision of the future, but ultimately it comes down to whether or not they can make money, and they aren't doing very well by that measure. Still, as one of the longest tenured CEOs in Silicon Valley, he gets a lot of respect. This is the first time I have seen talk or replacing him.