Back at Sun, I believe much of the blame for the company’s failure between 2001 and 2004 – from which the later, otherwise successful open source and hardware appliance initiatives under Jonathan Schwartz were unable to rescue it – came from allowing rapid, indiscriminate hiring of new sales and marketing staff in the 1999-2001 window as a result of the wave of success Java mindshare generated for Sun in the Web bubble.
That led to a huge growth in new, largely non-technical hires who didn’t necessarily share Sun’s traditional, open values and who didn’t rely on technology leadership as their prime guide. These new hires came to dominate the company’s software business, allowing marketing-led thinking to take precedence over pragmatic engineering. They went on to create strategies that just couldn’t deliver, including the disastrous “Sun One” middleware strategy. It matters who you hire.
My column for ComputerWorld this week asks if Twitter is falling into the same trap.