Though it’s gotten no shortage of mainstream press coverage, the recent two billion dollar detente between Sun and Microsoft had one significant aspect that’s been curiously, and egregiously underreported.
First, some background: The two companies have rather famously sniped at each other for years, with arguments ranging from credible technical differences to petty and chlidish insults. Besides helping Sun’s finances during a time when they’re struggling, the almost two billion dollars that Microsoft is paying will undoubtedly generate several times that amount in more efficient operations and interoperability benefits if the technical coordination that’s been promised by the two companies actually comes to light.
The agreement between the two companies was about a year in the making, but none of the considerable press coverage of the agreement process mentioned one interesting anecdote I read in eWeek’s interview with Steve Ballmer:
Going back to how it got started, let me tell you about the Easter invitation. Before Scott [McNealy] called for golf, Scott’s wife invited my wife over for Easter. My wife doesn’t know Scott’s wife. There are two families that are good friends of the Ballmers and good friends of the McNealys�they happened to be with the McNealys in Palm Springs [Calif.], and they thought I was going to be there with my wife and kids. It turned out we were going someplace else for Easter. But Scott’s wife checked with Scott. At the time, I guess he was sort of thinking about this in a preliminary way.
So, just as the technology industry’s largest and most successful company merger ever was led by a woman, the cessation of a decades-long rivalry that resulted in some of the least productive and most useless bickering in the technology business was instigated by two women, neither of whom (as far as I know) are even on the payroll of their husband’s companies.
A lot of people wonder why I harp on the importance of solving the underrepresentation of women in the technology industry, or why I am glad to work in an environment that’s evenly balanced between genders, and I think the fact that two women who aren’t even the CEOs of Microsoft and Sun could generate so much value for the industry illustrates the point rather well.