Sun names Loiacono new head of software

Sun Microsystems has promoted John Loiacono to replace Jonathan Schwartz as the new head if its software business. Schwartz was elevated to president and chief operating officer last Friday, when Sun announced a broad technology-sharing agreement with its erstwhile nemesis, Microsoft.

Sun also said Monday that Rich Green, the head of its Java tools division, has decided to leave Sun after 14 years with the company. He will be replaced temporarily by Chris Atwood, a director of engineering with Sun's tools group, until a permanent replacement is found, the company said.

Loiacono's new title will be executive vice president of software. Previously, he was senior vice president of Sun's operating platforms group, in charge of the strategic direction of its flagship Solaris operating system as well as Sun's new Linux program. He has been with Sun since 1987.

Customers shouldn't expect a dramatic change in Sun's strategy as a result of the management changes, Loiacono said. "I'm not here to dramatically alter the strategy, I'm here to execute," he said.

Sun has been trying to grow its software business by offering subscription-based pricing and by selling its hardware and software bundled together -- a model that it hopes will distinguish it from emerging rivals such as Dell and Red Hat. Loiacono plans to keep building on that strategy, he said.

"You saw us get creative with our developer tools when we offered a subscription price with some hardware included. I think we're looking at that trend across the board in all our product categories, not just the ones we've announced to far," he said.

Loiacano will also help to hammer out the details of Sun's newfound technology partnership with Microsoft. The companies announced a broad settlement deal Friday in which Sun dropped its legal complaints over Microsoft's misuse of Java, and the companies pledged to make their software products work together. Loiacono said it's too early to say when Sun's customers will see the first fruits of that accord.

"What we're doing right now is mapping out what we can do and how long it will take. I can't tell you right now if we're going to see some things in 60 days or if you won't see the first results for six months," he said.

Sun also announced Friday that it would lay off 3,300 employees as it continues to refocus its attention on software. The company's mainstay enterprise server business, based on its UltraSparc processors, has been dwindling since the dot-com collapse. IT managers looking to cut costs have turned to less expensive servers running processors from Intel and operating systems such as Linux and Windows.

Hardware will continue to be a big part of Sun's business, but it needs to emphasize its other software assets more in order to compete better against rivals, analysts and customers have said.

"There's been a general feeling that Sun has been relatively slow in turning its attention to the software side of things, because its old hardware-focused markets are not what they used to be," said Wayne Kernochan, an industry analyst at Infostructure Associates Inc. in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

The departure of a long-time executive like Green, whose title was vice president of Java development platforms and tools, should be seen in the context of a company undergoing dramatic changes, Kernochan said. The changes are perhaps more dramatic than when Sun switched its main focus from workstations to servers more than a decade ago, he said.

"What with the whole announcement with Microsoft as well as these personnel shifts, I think it's indicative that there needs to be not so much a shift in the allocation of resources, but a shift in the overall mindset at Sun," he said.

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