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How Sun Bought Apple Computer (Almost) 307

Hugh Pickens writes "There was a time in the 1990s when Sun, at its wealthiest, was poised to buy Apple when it was at the lowest point in its storied history and now eWeek reports on how the deal for Sun to buy Apple fell through. 'Back in late 1995 early '96, when we were at our peak, we were literally hours away from buying Apple for about $5 to $6 a share,' says former Sun CEO Ed Zander. 'I don't know what we were going to do with it, but we were going to buy it.' Sun co-founder Scott McNealy adds that there was an investment banker on the Apple side who basically blocked it. 'He put so many terms into the deal that we couldn't afford to go do it.' Would there be iPhones, iPads and iPods on the market today if Sun Microsystems had been able to close a deal to buy out Apple in the mid-1990s? No, says McNealy. 'If we had bought Apple, there wouldn't have been iPods or iPads ... I'd have screwed that up.'"
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How Sun Bought Apple Computer (Almost)

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  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @11:53AM (#35323740) Homepage Journal

    Well at least he's being honest about it.

  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @12:01PM (#35323808) Homepage
    Actually, anyone who was Not Steve would have screwed it up. What Woz had in technical savvy, Jobs had in product savvy. Apple would have been long gone if NeXT hadn't bought them for negative 400 million dollars.
  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @12:33PM (#35324030) Journal

    Apple expertise combined with Sun's might have resulted in a new, easier-to-use class of workstations.

    ...which would have done bupkis for the consumer side, and would have cost a mint.

    I think that was the whole genius of how Apple did it - they have an almost slavish devotion to how the consumer uses their products, and pretty much gave up on the business/enterprise side of things, outside of a few feints and probes here and there (e.g. XServe). They found a whole side of computing and electronics that most OEMs only half-assed paid attention to, and leveraged it to rather enormous success.

  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @12:40PM (#35324080) Journal

    It would have been there, but it would have been a whole lot slower. Way slower, IMHO.

    Imagine something like the iPod coming out just this year, instead of 10 years ago. Imagine the RIAA going even more apeshit (yeah, I know) and keeping the music biz locked down to where digital music was either illegal, or locked down under so much DRM that it would have been nearly impossible to use. Imagine smartphones still being over-priced and slow piles of crap, with the useful models being hella expensive, and apps being distributed (if at all) under carrier lockdown. Imagine still having to use tablets with a stylus, crap specs, crappier battery life, and all of them still running Windows.

    I know full well that others would have filled the void, certainly. Problem is, they would have been very slow about it, and innovation would come in fits and starts, with Microsoft running the show (that, or doing its best to ruin the show if it couldn't get a piece of the action - see also netbooks when those all first came out running Linux - notice how all the sudden Microsoft got all wonky with the licensing all the sudden, sometimes threatening vendors outright?).

  • by the agent man ( 784483 ) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @01:01PM (#35324226)

    As Apple did not invent the idea of Pad computing, I'm quite certain there would have been others to market.

    Real invention includes the combination of getting an idea AND implementing it. Others may have had similar ideas but they did not create truly usable implementations. Many people, including Leonardo da Vinci, invented the airplane but in the end the real credit, and deservedly so, got to the people who made the airplane actually FLY. Similarly, Apple really DID invent Pad computing.

  • Eh, not really (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DesScorp ( 410532 ) <> on Saturday February 26, 2011 @03:12PM (#35325292) Homepage Journal

    ""NeXT wasn't a "popular" computing company, it built high-end workstations and an object-oriented OS for the scientific and government markets, actually a lot like Sun. NeXT actually did pretty well at this"

    Did pretty well? Not exactly. People loved the OS. The hardware, with that expensive-yet-trouble-prone combo optical drive... eh, not so much. Even if the hardware was beloved, there simply wasn't enough of a market in terms of total sales to support what NeXT was spending. They burned through cash at a mind-boggling rate. Jobs spent much of his fortune from Apple on NeXT, and didn't have much to show for it near the end. Eventually the company downsized radically, becoming essentially a small software tools shop, selling off their expensive-yet-stylish factory facilities. There have been entire chapters written about how Jobs was at his most obsessive over things like how the furniture looked at the factory during the period. NeXT, where Jobs was totally in charge of a company for the first time, was essentially a learning experience in how NOT to run a company for him. Considering what was invested and lost in it, NeXT was considered to mostly be a failure. This is why there was such a loud "WTF?" when the public found out just how much Apple paid for NeXT. Buying NeXT? Sure. Buying NeXT for $400 million? At the time it looked insane. People generally thought "Wow, Jobs sure conned them, didn't he?".You're right in that NeXT had an "exit strategy"; having Jobs talk (sucker?) a bigger company into buying them

    I use OS X and love it, so you can argue that buying NeXT was great because it gave Apple a foundation for a post-Classic operating system, but let's be honest here. Apple wasn't buying NeXT or an operating system or software tools. In retrospect, Apple was buying Steve Jobs. And it was the best investment they ever made.

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson