Sun to Windows-certify x86 hardware

In an apparent softening of its antipathy toward Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. plans to begin certifying its hardware to run the Windows operating system, a Sun executive said on Thursday.

“We’ll certify Windows,” said Larry Singer, Sun’s senior vice president of global market strategy. “We’re getting off of our religious crusade and we’re going to sell people what they want to buy.”

Though Sun has no plans to start selling Windows itself, the certification will give Sun’s customers new options outside of running the Solaris and Linux operating systems that Sun supports, Singer said. “If you have a Windows license, you can load it on that machine, and it means that Microsoft will take your support calls,” said Singer.

Windows will be certified for all future Sun products based on Intel Corp.’s x86 instruction set, including the new Opteron-based systems it is expected to unveil early this year. Sun will also “retro-certify” its Xeon-based Fire V60 and V65 systems, Singer said.

The certification will be done by Sun’s x86 chip suppliers, Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Singer said.

Industry analysts expressed surprise that Sun would make such a move, but questioned whether it would affect sales. “It is really out of character,” said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with the Insight 64 research firm. “One can imagine that in past years, Sun might have almost put something to keep Windows from running in their products.”

“It seems to me that (for) a customer who is interested in using Opteron hardware with Microsoft products, Sun’s not going to be their first choice of vendors,” said Brookwood.

Sun’s historic hostility toward Microsoft is changing, said Singer, who admitted that some of the company’s rhetoric may have been misdirected. “Not only shouldn’t we be slamming Microsoft all the time, but in some cases we should be embracing them. If we have the fastest, best value two-way Xeon processor out there, then why shouldn’t we make it available to people, whatever operating system they want to run?”

Sun could not say when the V60 and V65 systems would be Windows certified.

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