Sun Microsystems' ( JAVA) CEO Jonathan Schwartz has had a lot on his plate in the last few years but wants to reassure investors and customers that the tech giant's future is still rosy. "I'm not worried about the future, I'm focused on its arrival date," he wrote in a blog posting earlier this week. "I'm neither worried about the role information technology will play in the economy, nor am I worried about the relevance of Sun's offerings." The Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm has nonetheless seen its shares plunge 71% in the last 12 months, underlining the scale of Schwartz's challenge. Faced with stiff competition from IBM ( IBM) and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), not to mention a brutal spending climate, Sun has also had to contend with falling sales. The firm's revenue, for example, fell 10% year-over-year in its recent second-quarter results. Sun also announced plans to cut up to 6,000 jobs, or 18% of its global workforce, last year in its latest attempt to rejuvenate its business. Set against this backdrop, Schwartz acknowledged that the global economy is problematic. "I am routinely talking to customers now partially owned by governments, whose share prices have declined 95% or more, whose balance sheets and basic business models are under extraordinary duress," he wrote in his blog. "Sure, innovation loves a crisis, but only after customers have stepped out from under their desks." The CEO, who took Sun over from Scott McNealy in 2006, believes that that there are still positives, even in a bleak economy.
"The glass isn't only half empty -- I'm also seeing customers who have never had it better, from media startups and telecommunications firms, to government agencies flush with new funding," he wrote. In an attempt to tap into this demand, Schwartz outlined Sun's roadmap for the coming year, pushing storage, networking and new software partnerships to the forefront of its agenda. "You're going to see an accelerating series of announcements," he explained. "From amplifying our open storage offerings, to building out an equivalent portfolio of products in the networking space." Sales of Sun's Open Storage products, such as its 7110 storage systems, grew 21% year over year in the firm's second-quarter results, as did the company's software revenue. Schwartz also promised to focus on cloud computing, partner programs for startups and "new and potentially surprising" deals involving Sun's Solaris and MySQL software. Sun has already forged a partnership with H-P to run Solaris on its rival's x86 servers, so more deals of this nature are clearly on the cards. Schwartz, who explained that Sun has $3 billion in cash, also promised to woo more developers into using the company's software, a clear shot across the bows of Microsoft ( MSFT) and open-source Linux technologies. "This is a strategic activity, not a financial one, so don't look for revenue here," he wrote. Sun, which opened up Solaris' code four years ago, is re-affirming its commitment to open source, particularly in areas such as storage. Last year, for example, the firm launched Solid State Disks integrated with Solaris and Sun's ZFS file system.
"Our first financial priority is to generate free cash flow; our first strategic priority is to grow our available market," wrote Schwartz, explaining that free versions of the Solaris code can open the door to new sales opportunities. "You have to beat us in the free software community and then again in front of paying customers." Despite a week of turmoil in the financial markets, Sun's stock advanced with the broader tech sector Wednesday. The firm's shares rose 20 cents, or 4.43%, to $4.71 as the Nasdaq climbed 2.23%.