IBM’s reported interest in acquiring the server computer maker Sun Microsystems for nearly $7 billion might seem to be a reversal of its recent efforts to move away from the hardware business. But analysts say there is more to Sun than servers — and that its strengths in software, systems design, and research make it an attractive target, reports the New York Times. IBM has pared back its dependence on hardware, where profit gains have declined, while increasing its investment in higher-margin software and services businesses. Sun has a solid share of the market for server computers used in enterprise data centers, but it, too, has been trying to expand in more profitable businesses. While it is struggling financially today, the Silicon Valley company has long been a source of technological innovation. Sun created both the Solaris operating system, a version of Unix, and Java, an internet-era programming language and related software tools. Java is the teaching language in most of computer science, and software programs written in Java are widely used in things like data centers and cell phones. IBM uses Java extensively in its big software group, which trails only Microsoft in size. It has its own Java-based tools for software developers, called Eclipse, and at times it has clashed with Sun, potentially weakening the Java camp as an alternative to Microsoft’s Windows software and tools. If it acquired Sun, IBM "would unify those warring groups and make for a stronger front against Microsoft," said Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management…

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