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Sun ditches jet, puts McNealy on Southwest

The network is the airplane

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Only Sun Microsystems could turn scrapping its corporate jet into a product pitch.

The company recently whacked its corporate flyer after years of loyal service, deciding that chartering private planes and hitching rides on Southwest made more sense for the likes of Chairman Scott McNealy and CEO Jonathan Schwartz. The move was in some ways a cost-cutting measure as the jet "got crap mileage." But, more than that, it reflected Sun's constant theme of renting things the company is not so hot at and building the rest - or so Sun's top dogs tell us.

"We couldn't find a customer that valued our ability to manage an airplane," Schwartz told us.

"It turns out NetJets and United can run more efficient airlines than we can," added McNealy. "Someday, folks might start to realize that network.com is a more efficient way to run their computers too."

Always with the hard sell.

Sun has been banging on about outsourcing services for years, bragging about how it hires Aramark - or whomever - to serve meals at its campuses and how partners like Salesforce.com ship CRM services online. McNealy has urged large companies to stick with what they know rather than trying to build custom IT shops to handle tasks better done by professionals.

But the airplane sales pitch seems to miss the larger point.

In the midst of this mini-bubble, you'd hope that Sun would be buying more planes rather than selling off its lone jet. We long for the days when Carly Fiorina was building an Air Force at HP complete with attendants who were "resourceful when confronted with non-standard work duties." And what of vodka peeing ice sculptures? Who can we turn to for those now?

Lest you be worried about McNealy and Schwartz's comfort, we can assure you the executives still travel in style. There's the chartered jets and first class seats on commercial craft for overnight, international treks.

"No first class on Southwest though," McNealy added.

And there are even more perks on the way, if Sun can find the black.

"We're waiting to turn profitable before we charter planes with bathrooms," Schwartz said. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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