Sun Microsystems is planning to revitalise itself through a $500m marketing campaign for the Java language it developed in the 1990s.
Company executives have been telling reporters at its JavaOne conference in San Francisco this week that half of the company's marketing budget this year will be spent on promoting Java with a new logo and the legend "Java powered". Java will become, apparently, "modern, intelligent and cool".
The idea is to copy Intel's outrageously successful Intel Inside campaign when the man in the street suddenly not only heard of a microprocessor for the first time but felt that his computer wasn't the same without one from Intel. However, Sun has confirmed it will not use Intel's most effective tactic of paying a percentage of the cost of any company's advertising if they featured the Intel logo and/or "dong-dong-dong-dong" leitmotif.
Sun hopes that with Java being increasingly used in modern devices, it can strongly associate its name with the cross-platform language and so reap the benefits not only by selling server hardware but also expanding its software division.
To this end, it will attempt to persuade companies to stick the new Java logo on all equipment that rely on the technology. It will also relax Java's licensing rules to allow developers greater access to its core code. This, it hopes, will increase the number of developers from three million to 10 million and so push the technology further.
While Java's great strength is that it can be used on almost any device, so bypassing compatibility problems, it has suffered until recently by being rather slow due to the extra layer of code to be decrypted. However, in the growth markets of games and mobiles - where they are a range of proprietary systems - Java has proved itself increasingly popular. Sun claims 100 million cell phones currently use Java in some form.
Whether Sun's attempt to make Java a household name (there is also a consumer website at Java.com) and hope it rubs off on the company works, only time will tell. As a strategy however, it is worth the gamble since Sun's arguably most successful ever product has hardly made the company a bean.
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