Digitally Divided

Like Hal, I thought some of the responses to Jonathan’s digital divide entry were a little too, well, divisive.

My first reaction mirrored Hal’s: this isn’t a valid either-or. If I told you “I’m concentrating on my job for the next couple of months, so I’m going to have to stop being polite to others”, you’d call me, at best, crazy. Well, with over 30,000 employees, bigger things can happen.

My second reaction relates to the changes I’ve seen in Sun since I left in 2001. In the traditional business model, there’s the company and there’s the potential customers, the latter being a group who has been targeted by the company through some business plan. You come up with marketing plans, budget for sales folks, build out a field engineering team, etc.

Lets apply this point of view to Jonathan’s digital divide post: Yowza! This can’t possibly make sense! Sun is diluting its focus and going after a market that clearly can’t justify the cost of customer acquisition!

Now I’m not going to argue that this traditional business approach is wrong. What I’m going to argue is that the traditional business/customer relationship is not the only meaningful one in the Participation Age. Sun needs relationships with developers, hosting companies, handset manufacturers, bloggers, sys admins, etc, etc. Most of these relationships lack the well-defined structure of the traditional business/customer relationship, but that doesn’t mean they lack value. Furthermore, the “cost” of these relationships doesn’t have to be as high as the traditional relationship as well.

The ability to identify these other types of relationships, putting plans around them and executing on them is one of the big changes I’ve seen in Sun over the last five years. And it’s through this thought process of a wider range of relationships that Sun looks at the broader set of opportunities outlined by Jonathan.