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Will Schwartz add more Windows to Sun?

With Jonathan Schwartz now at the helm of Sun Microsystems, could stronger bonds with Microsoft be in the cards?

Perhaps the changing of the guard at Sun Microsystems Inc. was no shock to some. Now pundits can dish over whether or not it will be the start of a new era at Sun – and one that might mean more collaboration with Microsoft.

The company said earlier this week that CEO Scott McNealy was stepping aside so chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz could take the reigns. Not everyone thinks the new CEO will bring big changes. Gordon Haff, a senior analyst at Illuminata Inc., Nashua, N.H., said he doubted the change was much more than Schwartz taking over a role he had already started and fine tuned even while McNealy was in control.

Major moves, including the adoption of x86 architecture, the move to AMD's Opteron processor on low-end hardware and the open sourcing of the Solaris operating system, all bore the mark of Schwartz, Haff said.

And more importantly Schwartz's background, based in software, is one that could see some interesting collaboration in the future -- mainly with Microsoft. Relations between Sun and Microsoft have improved in the past few years -- the "sword has been sheathed," Haff said – and have included healthy doses of interoperability work between the two companies.

The interoperability reflects what the end users have been demanding, said Tony Iams, a senior analyst with Rye Brook, N.Y.-based IDEAS International Inc., and now the idea of pre-installing Windows Server onto Sun boxes is not unthinkable.

"Now that Sun is with x86, to realistically compete in that market you have to have some level of support for Windows," Iams said. "If Apple [Computer] can come in and support Windows, then it makes even more sense for Sun to do so too."

Broad support for Windows would also help Sun stem the flow of lost customers who have defected from Solaris to Linux thanks to free migration programs offered by IBM and Hewlett Packard, said Charles King, founder of Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research.

However, King said that Sun has made inroads with x86 in the interim with an aggressive campaign to present its Galaxy servers, based on AMD's Opteron processor. And while not as pronounced as the gains in the hardware business, Sun has also seen up ticks in popularity with ISVs thanks to its efforts into open source software.

"Typically systems vendors like Sun don't make a huge amount of money selling open source software, but they do manage to make a healthy profit through alliances with the ISVs and by selling ancillary products to support the open source ISV applications," King said.

As for Java, the pundits said they believed Sun will continue to be careful about retaining control and managing Java for the time being. Schwartz has publicly said he has considered options regarding Java, but to date the company has been reluctant to open source the technology.

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