So Scott McNealy has finally stepped aside as CEO of Sun Microsystems, handing over the keys to Jonathan Schwartz. This is a BIG DEAL in Silicon Valley, given that McNealy is one of the original industry pioneers and a lively character. Spin back the clock a decade and you'll see him on the covers of Business Week, Fortune and many other business publications, and oh, those Scott sound bites. Who else would describe the merger of Compaq and HP as "an image of two garbage trucks colliding" ? (Collection of Scott Zingers)
Now those same publications and a slew of critics are questioning whether Schwartz will bring Sun back to life Link: Sun's New Boss: The Same as the Old Boss?. Schwartz, 40, is bright, analytical, and a quick study. He's an eloquent communicator and engages audiences like Steve Jobs, with a combination of intellectual ideas and smooth style. By comparison, when McNealy spoke, we never quite knew what to expect when I was working there as an executive communications manager--speechwriter--a little over two years ago. Once he went to Canada to make a speech and somehow blasted the SEC. A corporate clarification followed the next day.
McNealy was truly a visionary and his maverick management style served him well for many years. His fault was allowing Sun to get "mispositioned" in the marketplace, as he puts it. He overexpanded during the boom and was slow to adjust to lower cost servers from rivals like Dell. He also waited too long to launch the Solaris computer operation system on low cost servers that run standardized x86 chips made by Intel and AMD, leaving it vulnerable to non-proprietary competition like Linux open source operating systems. See Financial Times article.
Schwartz appears to be cut from the same cloth as McNealy. He comes from the the same confrontational, headline grabbing McNealy mode and he does seem close to McNealy, making people wonder if he can break from the past (see how he describes Scott in the Jonathan blog)