Sun unveils sweeping new Y2K warranty

Sun Microsystems Inc. is putting its money where its mouth is by offering users a wide-ranging year 2000 warranty on all products listed as of Jan. 1, 1995.

According to Sun, all products purchased from Sun as of that date are now covered. If a year 2000 problem arises, Sun will replace the product or give users a current book-value refund.

Although customers are becoming increasingly anxious about the compliance status of their Sun products, a company official said, the warranty was always in the works.

“We think it’s the right thing to do,” said Tony Hampel, group manager for year 2000 marketing with the Mountain View, Calif.-based company. “Customers, as we were getting closer and closer to the year 2000, wanted some assurances from Sun…that these products weren’t going to [fail] come Jan. 1.”

Hampel said it isn’t fair to penalize its customers who, when they first signed contracts with Sun, hadn’t even considered year 2000 issues.

But the warranty isn’t without conditions. If a product’s source code has been changed by a third-party, it isn’t covered for year 2000 — products must be in an “as-shipped” state, Hampel said.

Second, equipment purchased after 1995 that came from a Sun-acquired third-party company, that is either no longer supporting the technology or is out of business, is also not covered in the event of year 2000 problems.

Because many of the legal issues surrounding year 2000 have yet to play themselves out, Hampel said, Sun didn’t rush development of the warranty. But he said the vendor decided to announce the warranty last month because it wanted to make it official before its fiscal year got underway on July 1.

“We feel [the warranty] is a very competitive and bold move,” Hampel said. “We also feel that companies like Sun should be doing these kinds of activities to help their customers.”

Sun’s stance is one of the most proactive, said Tom Oleson, research director of the IT advisor program at International Data Corp. (IDC) in Framingham, Mass.