Dispelling the Osborne Myth
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
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Dispelling the Osborne Myth

Despite some industry concern that operating systems were becoming a commodity, Sun chose to heavily invest in Solaris 10 – the latest version of its popular UNIX offering.

Paul Holmes

Despite some industry concern that operating systems were becoming a commodity, Sun chose to heavily invest in Solaris 10 – the latest version of its popular UNIX offering. At the heart of its strategy was the belief that the right OS can be critical to the success of any organization that depends on high performance, reliable computing platforms to do business.

With Sun’s two old arch rivals in this space – IBM and HP – giving every indication that they were putting their respective AIX and HP-UX products on life support, the race became a battle between three very different operating systems: Solaris, Windows and Linux.

But for Sun, who recently put aside its differences with Microsoft, the real race was between Solaris and the new kid on the block - 13 year-old Linux. Armed with 600 new innovations within Solaris 10 (including its ability to run native, unmodified Linux applications) Sun was hoping to take market share away from increasingly popular Linux distributors such as Red Hat.

Sun Microsystems and Citigate Cunningham chose to pursue a 12-month campaign strategy that would once and for all dispel the Osborne myth. (In 1981 the world’s first portable computer manufacturer, the Osborne Computer Corporation (OCC), was shipping approximately 10,000 units of its debut product, the Osborne 1. Two years later the company was filing for bankruptcy because it began bragging about a product months before its actual release - killing demand for the Osborne 1. The company never recovered and the blunder reverberated through Silicon Valley, producing the phrase "Osborneing".)

Primary media relations goals were to: Educate media on the innovative new technologies in Solaris 10 Provide access to early Solaris 10 adopters and demonstrate beta customer traction, position Solaris 10 as the lynchpin of Sun’s software strategy and key driver of the company’s resurgence, dispel the myth that Linux and Red Hat were one and the same and lay the groundwork for communicating Sun’s strategy to deliver Solaris open source.

In alignment with the above objectives, the PR team architected a series of complementary tactics designed to create positive momentum and excitement prior to Solaris 10 general availability. To date activities have included: “Unplugging” The Leak, Regular communication of Solaris 10 (press releases, interviews, Network Computing events) Ongoing proactive pitches, following updates to early beta access program – Software Express Executive insight from Jonathan Schwartz’s (President and Chief Operating Office) web log, A launch event (on Nov. 15) that incorporated on-stage presentations and one-on-one media communications from Sun’s CEO, President and 15 other senior executives, as well as Solaris 10 engineers and several partners and customers including FedEx, Fujitsu Telecom, SAP and Aeysis

A teaser campaign, entitled the Count Up to Solaris 10, which imaginatively used visual images of popular global landmarks to parallel specific Solaris 10 features. Accompanying copy and the sun.com URL was distributed daily to key media during the 10 days leading up to the November 15 launch

A series of locally commissioned larger than life number “10” statues was placed on Sun’s campus, as well as outside the launch venue, and designed to highlight a specific aspect of Solaris 10 (e.g. One “10” had chains painted on to represent military grade security)

A weekly e-mail blast containing factoids about Solaris was distributes. Each week had a different theme: hardware platforms, customers, ISVs, developers etc.

Themed media weeks, one happening each of the four weeks leading up to the launch, targeted different constituencies and deliver specific messages: developers, ISVs, platform choice and customers (e.g. during ISV week Sun hosted a Chalk Talk to discuss the growing Solaris ecosystem, while a developer conference call was held during another week)

Individually tailored interactions with Sun’s VIP media outlets, were designed to ensure Day 1 launch coverage that delivered the breadth of Sun’s key messages. Each VIP contact was pitched a different Solaris 10 angle

Held on the morning of the launch, the Solaris 10 Bootcamp provided a deeper product dive for highly technical media and analysts and helped to build excitement in advance of general session. The agenda included introductions by senior executives; an engineer panel; and a customer roundtable

Significant media placements in the months leading up to the launch, including a 3-part cover story in eWeek. On launch day Sun dominated the US media landscape, generating more than 250 articles and coverage in 100 percent of its VIP business and trade media: including prominent day of coverage in the Financial Times, The New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today – as well as a cover story in Computerworld. Message pull through was exceptionally strong and consistent across both business and trade publications.

Other Highlights include: Circulation of over 100 million during launch, representing over 35 percent of all software industry news and 10 percent of all technology industry news. (Sun also held 17.1 percent total industry mind share Nov. 1-23), 77 media and analysts at launch event; 59 at Bootcamp; and 105 on launch teleconference – a cumulative 35 percent increase on previous Sun event and 31,093 hits for Solaris 10 “Count Up” jump page during two week period prior to launch.

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