Sun has bought information appliance company Diba as part of its strategy to launch Java-based electronics products for consumers. The move is Sun's most aggressive challenge yet to Microsoft with its Web TV partner, in the race to push Internet devices into the mass market.
Diba chairman Farid Dibachi claimed his company is the only one with a clear plan to provide information appliances. He said Microsoft is Diba?s main competitor but also mentioned Navio, Netscape?s software venture, now majority owned by Oracle and Network Computing (NCI). He called Navio "a mishmash" without a coherent strategy - despite Sun?s close alliance with Oracle on the Java/NC front.
The strategy of Diba, which will become Sun Microelectronics? consumer technologies group, is to provide the hardware platform for OEM electronics and computer companies to manufacture Web TVs, set-top boxes, smart telephones and other consumer devices. Sun chief executive Scott McNealy has repeatedly stated that he sees Java as the software platform for these products.
Dibachi said: "We provide the platform for others so they can put together the complete product, which is simple to use and to manufacture. None of the products will sell millions but the combination of all of them will."
The companies have been talking for many months, they said, so the buy was not a reaction to Microsoft?s $425 million acquisition of Web TV in April.
Sun already makes Javastation, its $750 thin client computer, but Chet Silvestri, president of Sun Microelectronics, said Diba?s OEM products are differently targeted as cheaper boxes aimed mainly at consumers. Analysts said Sun has decided to buy a hardware platform for Java rather than rely on licensing deals to promote it.
Farzad Dibachi, president and CEO of Diba, said Sun gives his company the branding, financial clout, distribution channel and relationships to help its business take off.
Privately held Diba was set up by a group of former Oracle employees in December 1995. The terms of the deal and its impact on Sun?s finances were not disclosed but it is likely to make Diba?s founders, the Dibachi brothers, rich overnight. All the company?s 79 employees will transfer to Sun under Silvestri.
Diba opened its first European office in Reading, UK in November 1996, when it appointed former Silicon Graphics' former UK managing director Nigel Seed as its vice president of European operations.
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