Schwartz Steps Up to Take Over as Sun CEO

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This week saw Scott McNealy hand over the reins as CEO of Sun Microsystems after more than 20 years at the helm of one of the IT industry’s major Infrastructure suppliers. Current COO Jonathan Schwartz has been named by the board to succeed McNealy as CEO whilst retaining the title of President. McNealy has announced that he will continue to serve as Chairman of the Board and will also remain a full time employee of the company. What does this mean for Sun and its many customers around the world?

The announcement of the appointment of Schwartz as CEO has been well received. McNealy and Schwartz have publicly stated that they fully expect the transition to be smooth. Indeed, McNealy has been quoted as saying that he hopes that the transition will be almost invisible. Schwartz added that the only visible difference he hopes to make will be to continue to enhance the company’s improving financial returns.

Schwartz has been with Sun since 1996 when Sun acquired Lighthouse Design Ltd., of which he was CEO. Since then he has risen rapidly through the ranks and has held a number of posts including EVP Software, SVP Corporate Strategy and Planning and VP, Ventures Fund in addition to his most recent role as President and COO. The experience garnered in his 12 years in the company will certainly be valuable in the months and years ahead.

On his appointment Schwartz said, “It is an honour to take the reins of this great company from one of the industry’s true visionaries. I’m thrilled with this opportunity before us—a global marketplace of businesses and consumers ever increasing their participation on the network, a world-class leadership team and development process, and some of the industry’s most valuable network computing brands and technologies. I couldn’t be more excited.”

It is likely that there will be no immediate change in the strategic direction of Sun. The company’s current core Server and Storage platforms are at their strongest for several years and the latest chip developments appear to be attracting the attention of customers old and new. However, it is in the area of software and services where Schwartz may be able to bring benefits. Sun has long been recognised for its server offerings but has not been as successful promoting its wide range of software solutions. With his background running Sun’s software business between 2002 and 2004 Schwartz has a very good knowledge of both the company’s software offerings as well as the challenges faced by those selling them.

I fully expect Schwartz to be a very good CEO for Sun in today’s highly competitive market place. In the short and mid terms I doubt that Sun’s customers will notice any major changes to the relations with the company and it is clear that the major strategic investments in research and development will continue apace. It will be interesting to monitor how McNealy adapts the role of Chairman of the Board.