Table: Sun vs. Microsoft
Sun Microsystems (SUNW ) is facing off against Microsoft (MSFT ) in a wide array of software and services. Here's how the two archrivals stack up:
SERVER OPERATING SYSTEMS
Microsoft's Windows 2000 dominates the market for sub-$100,000 servers used for lower-level jobs, such as doling out Web pages. But Windows runs less than 1% of the mid- and high-end servers that tackle big jobs. That's where Sun's Solaris system shines.
Microsoft will win lower-end markets, but the most critical computing will be done on high-end computers.
WEB SERVICES PLATFORM
Sun's Sun ONE architecture pulls together software, including its Java programming language, to create a foundation for corporations to build Web services. Microsoft's .NET platform does the same thing, and is about a year ahead of Sun ONE.
Though as Sun ONE rolls out, it could gain ground because of the popularity of Java.
Microsoft will offer a vast array of its own services. It already has a service that lets subscribers get traffic alerts wherever they are. Aside from basic offerings such as instant messaging, Sun won't offer services of its own--to avoid competing with its customers.
With Windows loaded on almost every PC, Microsoft will be able to market its services directly to about 140 million computer buyers next year.
Some 200 million accounts have been created with Microsoft's identity-authentication service, called Passport. That lets them sign on once to use hundreds of Web sites. Sun and 34 other companies have created the Liberty Project, which will let each Web service provider chose from many I.D. services.
Liberty-based services won't be ready for a year or so. Passport should keep its huge lead.
With 7 million developers, Microsoft has the raw-numbers advantage over Sun's Java, which has about 1 million developers. But most of Microsoft's devotees focus on relatively simple PC programs. Big-time Net programs are written using Java.
The Java advantage will help Sun create loyalty with programmers who build next-generation Web services and applications.
Sun's iPlanet suite includes a few programs for buying and selling over the Net. But Sun has never been good at selling software, and software bigs such as SAP and Oracle are likely to sell most of the programs that run on Sun"s computers. Microsoft leads Sun in e-commerce software.
Unless Sun finally gets software right, it may get stuck selling lower-margin hardware.