The area between San Antonio and Shoreline I guess is now mostly Google; before that it was bracketed by Sun and SGI. I know lots of people that basically stayed working in the same set of buildings throughout the last 20 years: different companies, same view. That's soil has grown a lot of wealth.
I pictured Silicon Valley as a real valley, with low orange sunlight picking out the slabs and flat roofs of the research centres, roads winding to the valley floor below, the sea at the end of the valley.
How disappointed I was when I finally visited the place and found an extended grid-plan office park on flat reclaimed land with the odd hill in the distance.
I'm not sure if that's an original quote of yours, but it certainly captures the ethos poetically well.
Bob Coe once told me he did not have to interview the candidates for his Administrative Assistant position. I should simply ask each candidate to link her hands behind her head with her elbows pointing forward and walk toward the wall. If her elbows were the first part of her anatomy to touch the wall, she was eliminated from candidacy. All applicants whose breasts touched first, he would interview.
Seriously, Sun sold for less than Skype. Internet start-ups with no revenue have sold for more. What happened in Sun's final days is embarrassing.
And of course once such companies got big enough to interest Sun's direct sales people, they were adept at making do with lower quality and cheaper hardware; I'm sure Sun missed out on massive sales before they got desperate and degraded the quality of their designs and what they were shipping, at which point it was game over.
It's pretty cool to be able to sell a mega-supercomputer for the price of a small castle once in a while, but it turns out it's not a viable business model long-term.
Neither SGI nor Sun were boneheaded, per se. They simply missed the signs of the Internet and cheap commodity hardware. Just as MS missed the Internet and Mobile. And I'm sure today's high-flyers are missing something too.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that in an industry moving as fast as ours, the only viable long-term model is to change your model all the time.
Their off again on again attitude to Solaris on x86 and their closing down of their free C compiler ceded the market to Linux.
Oh and about Java. When they brought in their Coolthreads machines Java ran abysmally without special settings. You would think the Java guys would talk to the Coolthreads guys to get nice settings out of the box. Sun were like three companies in one who didn't talk to each other.
It's not just the hardware made Java perform like crap.
Java made Solaris perform like crap too.
On the other hand, you're comparing a 1991 or earlier SPARC chip with the late 1992 486/66. Weitek offered their own after market clock doubled SPARC POWER µP, although I'm not sure it gained as much as the clock doubled 486.
The Solaris story on x86 was poor, indeed: in 1999 I set up a x86 machine with a removable hard drive so it could run the various operating systems our customers used, Solaris was the only OS we couldn't get running on it (and I first bare metaled a UNIX(TM) system in 1981 (sic) so I don't it was our fault). One or two BSDs including the commercial one, Linux, forget what else, but not Solaris.
Then again, as I note plenty of people were willing to run another OS on Sun x86 hardware, but couldn't buy it.
And echoing your other Java comments, a 2001 project I was involved in, running on SPARC hardware, dropped the idea of using Java because the SPARC implimentation at the time was too buggy.
As for their closing down their free C complier, I myself never found it difficult to get GCC running on a SPARC machine through the '90s. But, yeah, that added a barrier.
Re Sun C and GCC - it's not the difficulty of getting GCC on; its the fact that the whole culture of development started to revolve around GCC rather than Sun C.
Not "cheap", but of at least perceived high quality, and something that many startups found attractive. The latter just couldn't actually buy these boxes in sufficient quantity.
Lots of companies suffer because they screw up their sales, fail in that sort of basic blocking and tackling.
His answer was that engineers shouldn't concern themselves with how any of their work would make money - that was the job of other people. Even then, it seemed like a recipe for making cool stuff no one would buy.
Sun had great software (shitty stuff, like the old IP stack, got replaced), but their on-again-off-again relationship with Intel screwed them.
Would Java have been as widely adopted if it cost money to use the language?
I dont think the community is that active anymore:
2) Sun was one of the true pioneers of the cloud, but they couldn't capitalize and lead this next generation of computing. (They should have created AWS, for instance.) Was it due to Christensen's innovator's dilemma, or was there another reason?
1. "Cloud" basically didn't matter until we had widespread broadband internet access. Around the beginning of the 00's, that still wasn't the case for many businesses.
2. Consumers hadn't really accepted that the 'net was going to be a big deal, because there really wasn't a lot of stuff there yet that put them in contact with it every day--maybe, for younger people, Xanga or LiveJournal, or whatever, but the massive publishing empires you see today hadn't really formed yet.
3. Sun was very invested in workstation and server hardware, big iron stuff. That core business supported a whole lot of growth, but once Linux and comparatively cheap commodity server hardware became available, that core business got eroded hardcore.
4. Computers were still pretty weak, as were phones and wireless networking. Technology just wasn't primed for mass adoption yet.
Wasn't the stealth bomber's radar cross section optimized on a Sparc 1?
Eventually they switched everything to Windows due to widespread demand from users, and from a sysadmin perspective, went back to the dark ages.