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Will Sun Microsystems beat its customers over the head with product at an event next month? Not likely, says Sun's President Jonathan Schwartz.

Sun will hold one of its quarterly product launch events next week in Washington D.C. But, as has become the case of late, Sun won't actually launch product at the product launch. It will instead try to woo back government customers who stopped buying Solaris on Sparc gear, opting for Linux on Intel systems instead.

Does this mean the days of hardware razzle-dazzle are done at Sun?

"No. We will have a product hog-heaven release here soon," Schwartz said in an interview.

Customers are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a lot of Sun gear, including a new line of Opteron servers, Opteron-based storage systems and servers powered by Sun's multicore Niagara chip. Schwartz declined to say when any of this kit would arrive except for the Niagara servers - code-named Ontario - which he said are being tested and will ship in January.

Schwartz denied rumors that the Opteron systems are being delayed as a result of uncompleted device driver work and an insufficient volume server delivery system. "They just aren't done," he said. "When you see what we deliver, you'll see why we took our time to get it right."

As Sun waits to complete this gear, it plans to go after government business at the Washington event, mimicking a similar strategy used on Wall Street customers last year.

Last quarter, Sun reported weak sales to government customers - traditionally one of the most voracious buyers of Solaris gear. The soft sales are a result of the government's long purchase cycles, according to Schwartz. The problems that affected Sun over the past two years - including a lack of x86 systems or Linux offerings - are now showing up in the government sector. For that reason, Sun will go out and hawk its current and future Opteron gear along with the Solaris x86 operating system.

Sun gets points for creativity with these productless product launches. It has tried to focus the events on certain regions such as Europe and China. Now, it's putting vertical themes around the US shows. The quarterly events, however, started as a way of showcasing what Sun's large research and development operations could produce on a regular schedule. Sun CEO Scott McNealy would proudly proclaim, "This is what $500m can do!"

It's hard to turn around a company the size of Sun overnight, but it's about time that the firm get back on this consistent product delivery schedule. Customers prefer metal to a message any day. ®

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