If you have bad news to put out, Christmas is the best time to do it. So, it's with a high degree of stealth that Sun has announced the discontinuation of its Cobalt server appliances.

A look at Sun's server appliance web page lists end of life status for the boxes. For Sun server appliances are now Intel boxes and not Sun Cobalt-branded items.

This has been quietly going on during the year. The Cobalt RaQ4 server appliance went 'end of life' (EOL) in February, eleven months ago. The Cobalt Control Station server appliance went EOL in November. Sun has just announced that it will EOL the last remaining model in its Cobalt product line, the RaQ 550 server, on 19 February, 2004. In an attempt to reassure users, Sun has announced that it willl maintain support for the products for three years from the EOL date.

In January 2001, when the Mips-powered Cobalt server appliances were launched, Sun president and COO Ed Zander said, " With the new products we're announcing today, were putting the squeeze on Wintel-Lintel in this multi-billion dollar market."

Unfortunately for Sun the squeeze operated in the wrong direction. And it was Sun that got squeezed by Linux on Intel. Zander left the company and now works at Motorola. Sun is aiming to offer a new family of low-end Sun Fire servers, based on AMD's 64-bit Opteron processor.

Pointing up Sun's Lintel problem, Office Depot, the second largest office supply retailer in the US, has just awarded Sun a multi-year, mult-imillion-dollar contract. It includes low-end Solaris servers. Sun will naturally prefer to sell these rather than x86 Lintel machines which open up its customer base to competition from every other Lintel vendor.