Sun wants investors to recognize it as the JAVA company

Come Monday, Sun will be known by a new stock ticker, JAVA, not its former SUNW monicker and the move hasn't been well received.

Apparently it's not enough that Sun peppers any and all discussions of its hardware and software products with liberal mentions of its Java programming language, now the vendor wants Wall Street to sit up and take more note of its homegrown technology too.

As of Monday, Sun Microsystems's ticker on the Nasdaq stock exchange will be JAVA, as the vendor turns its back on the SUNW ticker, which has served the company since it went public in 1986. Sun announced the upcoming change on Thursday.

Sun had its origins on the Stanford campus where three of the California university's graduate students Andy Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla and Scott McNealy, along with Berkeley graduate Bill Joy, came together to found the company in 1982. The name Sun originally stood for Stanford University Network, while the W indicated Sun's first products, workstations.

In a Thursday posting on his blog, Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz heralded the ticker change as recognizing that the Java brand is much better known than Sun, the company behind it.

"The number of people who know Java swamps the number of people who know Sun," he wrote, pointing to the technology's ubiquity as it's present in most of today's PCs, mobile devices and embedded systems. While the SUNW symbol is well known in the financial community, it represents "nostalgic value" and "the past," according to Schwartz. By contrast, the Java brand is "inseparably a part of Sun (and our profitability)," he added.

Schwartz was careful to state that the ticker name change wasn't indicative of any change in strategy for Sun, which will continue to offer a mix of products. "But we are no longer simply a workstation company, nor a company whose products can be limited by one category -- and Java does a better job of capturing exactly that sentiment than any other four letter symbol," he wrote. "Java means limitless opportunity -- for our software, systems, storage, service and microelectronics businesses."

Initial reactions to Sun's ticker change were mostly unfavorable -- "a terrible idea," "a waste of money," "a stupid move," "a joke," and "worst idea ever," according to most of the comments appended to Schwartz's blog. Commentators saw the JAVA ticker as limiting, not expressive of Sun's overall product portfolio and also very much yesterday's technology. While Java has been widely adopted, its ubiquity and its 12 years in the market add up to a dated technology, they wrote.

Sun began work on what later became Java in 1991 as a project code-named "Oak" initially for use in set-top boxes. The company then re-evaluated the work it had done and repurposed the effort as a new programming language with the mantra of "Write once, run anywhere." In other words, developers could create a program in Java and then have it run without alternation on a wide variety of hardware platforms. Sun unveiled Java in 1995, and, after some initial hiccups, the vendor saw widespread adoption of the language by developers working at all different sizes of companies from very large enterprises to small embedded systems startups.

After committing to open-source Java in May 2006, Sun finally began making Java freely available in November under both its own open-source license, CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License), and the GNU general public license version 2 (GPLv2). The move is in line with Sun's promise to eventually make more of its software available as open-source technologies.

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China Martens

IDG News Service

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