I thought I had a novel idea when I told a friend this weekend that Sun & Apple could make an interesting pair.  However, it seems that this isn’t a novel idea after all.  In 2006 it was reported that Sun had tried to acquire Apple once and considered a merger with Apple on two other occasions.

How the times have changed.  Apple, now with a 25x higher market capitalization than Sun, would be in a slightly different bargaining position.

Sun is trading at ~$3B, which is slightly above their cash and near cash balance of $2.6B. The likelihood of Sun making it through this global recession as a standalone company is, frankly, not a sure bet.  So who would make for a good suitor?  Apple, HP, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Red Hat (merger?) come to mind.

Of these, I think Apple is most interesting (maybe not the best fit, but most interesting).

Both vendors have deep experience in hardware at different ends of the product spectrum.  As such, there would be minimal real overlap across product families.  Sun’s Systems business (servers & storage) would be a great way for Apple to get deeper into the enterprise.

While both vendors offer premium priced products, it’s arguable how much longer Sun brand can uphold the premium.  However, take one of those Sun boxes, slap an Apple logo on it, along with Apple’s styling, and that premium looks to be in tact.

Sun has a strong developer following, while (the cool crowd of) developers love using Apple products during development.  To me, Sun’s developer following is Sun’s single most valuable asset.  Sun gets developer love like no other company I’ve seen (well, except Apple, but the love is more general than simply developers).  Any company considering acquiring Sun needs to have street credibility with these developers or risk losing the most valuable part of a Sun acquisition.

Oh and there may be the minor issue of Apple’s proprietary software strategy vs. Sun’s open source software strategy. ;-)

What do you think?