[update 2011-03-27: Kind of funny reading this now and thinking about Oracle being the one to end up buying Sun last year. Sun’s days were truly numbered when linux started to really gain traction in the server space]
This is to go along with every other “MS should buy X” story out there… Ok this sounds crazy, but really this is the best strategy that MS could have… buy Sun. It would probably end-up being a hostile takeover, but it would make sense for MS whatever the cost. MS keeps talking about their current strategy to run a command line interface (cli) on top of windows. In fact they already have it and are working to make it robust enough to woo unix types over to the windows platform. But this is a joke of the largest proportions as the problem with running windows with the cli on top, is that it does not solve the code problems with both security and performance underneath.
Unix has many more years of development that MS will never catch up to. Before any MS lovers get the wrong idea, I fully believe that MS OS can be made secure. They have worked hard at providing tools and resources for admins to make MS server OS very secure. In fact I know of several places that run windows for the web sites and have not had any problems with hackers. On the other hand performance with windows still lags. Sure they have marketing that shows Windows beating AIX or Linux in performance tests, but that is marketing. All benchmarks reported by a vendor should be immediately suspect… In the real world anyone who has both systems running side by side knows that windows is a dog compared to unix/linux. And if you wanted to really crank up the difference you can strip down a unix/linux system to a minimal configuration, much leaner than you could ever achieve with windows.
So back to why MS should buy Sun. They need to do what Apple did and switch the GUI to run on top of Unix. Then they get a rock stable system with security. Some might suggest why don’t they just use a Linux or BSD like Apple. Linux is out because the GPL license is an anathema to MS. BSD is possible, but the reality is MS is not going to get along with OSS folks and would have a difficult, if not impossible, time trying to work with them. Others might suggest MS to buy SCO, the only problem here is SCO unix is a dinosaur that has not seen much development and it is not clear whether they own any Unix at all (Novell maintains they are an exclusive distributor/licensing manager). Sun provides an advanced unix in Solaris. There is also the java thing that would tremendously benefit MS by gaining control of it.
However, for this to occur, MS might need to split itself, probably spinning off desktop apps into a separate company. But when you consider the benefits that MS could realize by consolidating onto a unix OS that also offers them the java foundation. That also offers them high performance and security that windows can not achieve at this time… They could finally take the last step to completely take over the datacenter. Well, this will never happen, but as much of a joke some may think I am writing here… I think it would be a huge success.
I know it will be tough to get around the monopoly thing, buying a major competitor. And of course, the fact that more than a few Sun folks will fight this tooth and hangnail makes it also a challenge. However, if they (MS) do formally split the apps from the systems group, this may be possible. And well, for Sun this is really their only future to be honest. Someone will buy them, be it IBM, MS, or who knows. I mean they really have no long term/future growth profit, with Intel and AMD basically owning the hardware market, the sparc platform is all but gone. I am not saying it isn’t a great chip, but look at the PPC, while it is now a major chip for the next generation of game systems (Xbox 360, PS3), it is not really gaining in the business market. So it has fallen into what is a very specialized niche. Maybe Sun can do the same with sparc, but I doubt it.
So come one MS, take another page from Apple’s playbook, and build the next Windows OS on top of unix. Split yourself up if needed, let Office get ported to Linux/Unix, so that it continues to dominate the desktop no matter which way it goes. Then make your money from services, applications and hardware. The OS becomes commodity that you already practically give away anyway.