A bad product name

January 28, 2006

I've recently been looking into Sun's Ultra 20 line of workstations. This surprises a lot of people who hear about it, because they wonder why I'm thinking of moving to Solaris and a Sparc from Linux and a PC.

The answer is that I'm not. But it's an easy mistake to make, because Sun has chosen a totally confusing product name. You see, the Ultra 20 is not yet another one of Sun's Sparc-based Ultra workstations, like the Ultra 1, the Ultra 5, and the Ultra 10; it is actually their new AMD-based office PC machine.

Hence the mass confusion around here. In more fun for Sun, I expect that there's a number of people who heard about a new 'Ultra 20' and dismissed the machine on the spot. Sun's previous Ultra machines have not exactly been compelling offerings, so why would people bother to look into another tired Solaris Sparc workstation instead of a PC?

(In fact the first I heard of the Ultra 20 was when Tim Bray mentioned getting one, and I had the same double-take reaction, since he wasn't someone I'd expected to be interested in a Sparc workstation.)

The name makes a kind of superficial marketing sense; I expect Sun marketing sees the machine as (another) Sun workstation. But that association isn't a particularly positive one (at least around here), so this actually works against selling the machines.

(There's some sort of moral here about understanding your brands, but I'm too sleepy to figure out a good version of it right now. You can draw a somewhat strained analogy to really understanding the Unix 'brand' if you want to.)

Written on 28 January 2006.
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Last modified: Sat Jan 28 03:09:58 2006
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