Sun King

Jonathan Schwartz, president and COO of Sun Microsystems, on the lack of great leaders in business, the future of technology, and vacationing in Australia.

Jonathan Schwartz

President and chief operating officer, Sun Microsystems Inc.

Jonathan Schwartz, 39, joined Sun Microsystems when the computer maker acquired his startup, Lighthouse Design, in 1996. He quickly took to the bigger company, heading investments, then strategy, then software, before becoming president in 2004. Here he talks about the importance of 14-hour plane trips, the delicacy that’s required in penning a widely read blog (, and the heartbreak of lost cell-phone calls.


There really is no difference between a 30-employee company and one of 30,000. It’s always about your employees, customers, and market. It’s just that in a big company, you have to go through a few more links in the management chain to contact the developer who works for you in Shanghai.

You are not about to send fewer email messages, watch fewer movies, or download fewer songs. Demand is unceasing. It is up to us to meet it.

The majority of the world will first experience the Internet through their mobile phones. In round numbers, there were a billion wireless devices sold last year and around 100 million PCs. The odds are much higher that you’ll watch broadcast-broadband content on your phone than on your PC.

All we really are is an intellectual-property fountain. Pour money in the top, some of the world’s most talented people go to work, and intellectual property falls out the other end.

You get a different perspective on the world when you go out and participate in it. My favorite part of the job is the travel.

The antiquated 1950s view of business is the boss walking around trying to squeeze every last bit of work out of employees, worried they are ordering Christmas presents online. I actually worry about the opposite, getting my people to take all their vacation time. We have a system that notifies me when someone is about to lose vacation days because they haven’t taken them in time. Every one of my direct reports is in danger.


Simplicity changes the world. Convenience is a force multiplier.

It is very difficult to write a good April Fools’ blog without feeling the need for serious engagement from the corporate legal team.

I can’t believe the amount of time I waste redialing my damn cell phone on the way to work because of all the dropped calls. I can’t believe how much time I waste navigating the myriad antiquated technologies that stand between me and leading my people. I make up for it with tenacity.

If you haven’t visited Australia, you should. The country has the endless vistas of Texas and a population with an addictive sense of humor. What more could you ask for?

When you do what you love, you can’t lose.

I envy great leaders, people who can motivate and cause change and progress with a single speech or a single set of actions. I envy the efficiency with which they lead. There are a lot of people like that in the political realm, very few in business.


Ultimately, everything is personal.