This is a common misconception about Sun. In fact, they were quite progressive from the beginning. They embraced a hybrid open/closed model from day one, for instance. They opened up some key technologies, such as NFS and SPARC. They maintained huge, comparatively, research budgets, with relatively few strings attached to productization of that research. Through the late 90s and very early '00 (Dotcom era) they were under constant pressure from institutional investors to cut research funding, but didn't.
In the end, though, I have to agre. I miss Sun (though my friends and co-workers probably do not miss me talking about how great Sun is)
[edit: cut-n-paste quote error]