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Bright Shine, Or Eclipse?

If you think about it, Scott McNealy had an amazing run as Sun's CEO -- one that went for a long, loooong time in this business. He co-founded the company in 1982 and became CEO and chairman two years later; that's 22 years at the helm. In the tech industry, that's several eons.
And, maybe, a couple of eons too long. McNealy will stay on as chairman and should get some credit for knowing that it was finally time to hand off the CEO responsibilities, but maybe that should have happened several earnings periods ago. Sun has been behind a lot of curves for a while, and it's pretty clear that McNealy was fighting old battles (the hassles with Microsoft; the reliance on proprietary hardware) when new battles were the ones that needed his attention.

They are certainly the ones that need new CEO Jonathan Schwartz's attention now. Schwartz is a high-level Sun hand who's been behind many of the company's strategic changes and tactical movements, and his initial statements seem to indicate that he understands Sun's challenges in the marketplace. How can the company add enough value to servers to make them worthwhile to enterprise buyers who can draw on increasing commodity-machine power? Will energy efficiency be enough when everyone else is also looking for ways to make their hardware cooler and more efficient? Can making Solaris open source entice enough customers to move to, or come back to, the Sun platform?

Those are all big questions, and Schwartz won't have a whole lot of time to ponder them; he needs to hit the ground running. He has been obviously groomed by McNealy for this day, and the stock markets welcomed his ascension with a solid boost in Sun shares, but that can evaporate just as quickly. Clearly, he will need to be his own man now, and the majority of his early moves will have to be the right ones. It's going to be a very interesting year for Sun watchers.