Sol Long

It is now great sport to anticipate what will happen to Sun Microsystems. As of Monday morning their market capitalization was less than their cash on hand, and when debt is factored in, Sun’s market cap was a little north of a 60% premium over cash. This means the stock market thinks Sun, its products, services and brand combined are worth about $800M.

Which for Silicon Valley is chump change.

Debates on what will happen to Sun (going private, selling off its limbs, auctioning off Schwartz’s ponytail) are less interesting than how they ended up in the relatively sorry state. I’ve opined on Sun’s disastrous buys (StorageTek and MySQL) as well as their misguided belief that being the champion of free software would automagically generate hardware sales. The causes of Sun’s eclipse are many.

Their marketing is certainly a suspect, as a recent email attests.

Somehow a Sun generated email (spam actually) entered my inbox. Their email should be used in college marketing classes as a bad example on how to communicate about products. The letter was heavy on buzz words, empty of value propositions, and as exciting as a mud sandwich on white bread.

Instead of dumping a billion dollars on MySQL, Sun should have invested $1.95 in a competent copywriter. Allow me to ruin your morning by sharing the email with you.

When you’re faced with having to deliver high availability, business-critical applications while under the financial constraints of tough economic times, this whitepaper is a “must read”

We live in a 15 second sound bite world where marketing professionals need to communicate a unique value proposition immediately. Instead Sun lobbed a meaningless and information-free paragraph with two sleep inducing buzz words (highlighted).

Like an Abu Ghraib interrogator, Sun’s marketing division relentlessly inflicts more pain on the reader.

Sun GlassFish Enterprise Server enables enterprises to deploy advanced high availability features in business-critical environments. The GlassFish application server cost effectively scales to meet the needs of the most demanding applications while delivering record-breaking performance and high availability without the complexity of proprietary application servers.

The second paragraph is more offensive than the first not only by virtue of avoiding usable information while distributing gratuitous volumes of over used buzz words, but also by the sin of repeating the same buzz words in the same breath. The reader is first bored to death then resuscitated through abuse and …

In this recent configuration guide, Sun engineers describe …

… confusion. First Sun promised a white paper, which by definition is a helpful education tool. Now Sun claims to deliver a configuration guide. The former product (and the text that pimps it) seemed targeted at the CxO level while the latter might appeal to a lower-level techie.

The reference configurations presented in this guide demonstrate how to deploy business services to meet various availability requirements, from the highly scalable service availability configuration to the business-critical, 99.999% service-and-data availability configuration. Learn more from this indispensable guide.

OK … I’ll stop. This is getting to painful to write.

What are the technology marketing lessons from Sun’s mistake?

  • Address one audience at a time
  • Tailor your messages to that audience
  • Get the value proposition to the top of the communiqué
  • Avoid overwrought words that fail to communicate information or value
  • Don’t buy shares in Sun Micro

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