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Since distribution of a technology is all that matters regarding the internet, sun handicapped java with its microsoft lawsuit, and under-capitalizing its consumer product. Sun had the classic issue of being to tech oriented, and not nearly as consumer focused as they should of been. Imagine a bunch of geeks creating a technology so advanced it would drive the industry for the next 15 years, but not having a clue what products to make with it or how to sell it. That is like creating a video game console, but having no titles for it. This is the issue that plagued sun, they were a hardware company and not a software company and did not make competitive consumer products for their invention. Eventually, Sun was pushed to the wayside an end ominous of xerox, apple (pre 1999), etc. whos’ ideas other companies capitalized from.
As a side note: I often see suns fate similar to that of apple back in the 80′s. Sun and Apple both thought they “owned” a market, and the ideas that flowed through that new market. This is a fatal mistake, because a company never actually “owns” a market until they create consumer products which justify ownership. This is similar to the idea of filing a patent, and never capitalizing on that patent. If you do not capitalize on a patent for which you own, when someone else does, you may lose entitlement to “said” patent. There is not one company out there; not one, who owns a market but yet has no top-of-the-line consumer product for that market. At the end of the day companies own products/services, and products/services own parts of a market. More on this in Volume 1, The Software Company, but just something to keep in mind.
Update: 04/21/2009, Sun Was Bought By Oracle