Books by Karen Southwick

Released: Sept. 10, 1999

As fast as computer companies emerge from their initial public offerings, books are being created to tout their stories. This one profiles Sun, originally involved with the manufacture of computer workstations and now linked to Java, one of the hottest Internet-based programming languages. The author, an editor for Forbes ASAP ,has a background in technology reporting and is comfortable here covering the technology behind Sun's business. But this is primarily a story not about technology, but about business, specifically the birth and growth of a company competing in a cutthroat arena. Sun was originally the Stanford University Network (SUN), one of many advanced research projects that turned into successful computer-industry companies. Most of this account revolves around the work of Sun's pioneers, particularly Scott McNealy, who came on board early to run the manufacturing side of the company. McNealy was and is, as the author informs us, a cheerleader, a "fun-loving college jock," "combative," and a visionary. While the company expands and reacts to changes in the computer industry, it does so while revolving around this "complex leader," who can also be contradictory. McNealy is reportedly libertarian in political and economic principle but takes the opposite tack by supporting the government's antitrust case against Microsoft—Sun's major software competitor. The story of Sun's development of its high-powered workstations and Java is well covered, but in the case of the latter is unlikely to be useful as a business model at this time, as applications and use—not to mention the industry within which it operates—are still evolving. This company history is too undecided, too transitory, and too thin, a victim of its subject's own short life span rather than any fault or omission of the author. (First printing of 75,000; $100,000 ad/promo) Read full book review >