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REVIEWS: A murky view of Sun

REVIEWS: A murky view of Sun

Business the Sun Way

- David Stauffer Price: $30.95.

Medium: Paperback.

Pages: 190.

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons.

As a subtitle, Secrets of a New Economy Megabrand makes a book sound incredibly enticing. Especially when that megabrand, Sun Microsystems, has been so spectacular in riding the highs and lows of the IT rollercoaster. Here finally - and apparently - is the chance to get inside the mindset of a company that has never been backward in coming forward. Forget reality TV; anecdotes of a Silicon Valley monolith can be so much more interesting.

But Business the Sun Way is unsatisfying in this respect. Sourced from the host of press articles written since the company was founded in 1982, the book lacks firsthand accounts that would otherwise make it compelling. Sun refused to allow author David Stauffer to interview its executives "as a matter of corporate policy", so instead, he presents company slogans and marketing jargon that do little to draw us into the Sun world.

The book tends to gloss over the less positive aspects - such as why net income in 2001 dropped 50 per cent - but this is understandable. As part of the Big Shots series, which features winners such as Amazon, Cisco and Dell, Business the Sun Way aims to illustrate lessons of success. Stauffer does reference articles in which Sun executives talk about the lessons learned from mistakes (such as the eBay crash in 1999), but the second-hand research detracts from the argument's persuasiveness.

However, peppered with succinct accounts of the company's philosophy and business practices as well as profiles of Sun's central identities, the title does manage to convey the great energy involved in building Sun to the business it is today. It is an easy-to-read account of how a Silicon Valley startup became one of the biggest names in IT - and why it will continue to do be a player, regardless of its current slump.


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