What's Next for Sun?

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Any takers?

Fujitsu is an obvious choice, given its long hardware partnership with Sun. After that, the situation gets murky. IBM (NYSE: IBM) has nearly taken over the Java community from Sun with its Eclipse project, but IBM doesn't need another RISC processor when it has the POWER chip.

Likewise, HP (NYSE: HPQ) might like a few parts of Sun but is getting rid of its own RISC processor, the PA-RISC, and migrating to Itanium. Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) has no use for SPARC and does not like large acquisitions. EMC (NYSE: EMC) could certainly use Sun's storage business, MySQL and perhaps even some elements of the server and Solaris operating system, but does EMC want to own Java?

"Pick a major vendor: there would be assets of interest for each," O'Grady said. But he suspects the sale would have to be as a whole, because "they won't want to be strip mined."

So is the sun setting on Sun? It seems so, and neither analyst was happy to acknowledge this about one of the Silicon Valley's original names.

"As for whether it is a firm in decline, at present the finances certainly indicate that, but with good execution and time that trend can certainly be reversed," said O'Grady.

"I see them as being on the decline," Farina said. "With the uncertainty surrounding Sun's future, if I'm a customer, I want to go with a company I know is going to be there for many years."

"So my suspicion is customers will go with IBM or HP. They have a strong roadmap and customers know they will be around. It will be more of a challenge for Sun to win that business."

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