Sun Microsystems axes 6,000 staff

Is the press release terminally ill? After seeing how Sun Microsystems 'announced' a batch of layoffs I'm starting to think that it might be.

Sun has axed up to 6,000 of its workforce, or as much as 18% of total headcount, as part of a plan to reduce annual costs by $800m.

Given the economic climate this is understandable, but rather than being upfront about it Sun has chosen to bury the bad news among marketese and feelgood sloganeering.

For starters, check out the headline: Sun Microsystems Aligns Business with Global Economic Climate and Amplifies Growth Opportunities Across Open Source Platforms.

Hmmm, ok. Cue another 1,268 words. How many do you think relate to the layoffs? A mere 25, by my reckoning. It's like a game of Where's Wally. Sun should pick up some almighty flak for this.

Here's the 21-word takeway: "The plan includes a reduction of approximately 5,000 to 6,000 employees, representing approximately 15% to 18% of the Company's global workforce."

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz talks about making these moves in order to "accelerate our delivery of key open source platform innovations". All well and good, but it feels a bit off-track. And from there it gets much, much worse.

Read on and you'll find Sun talking about how it "creates the best platforms", how it has an "open source leadership position", and how it has "one of the world's largest" developer communities, and how it wants to be "a leader in cloud computing", and so on and so on.

[6,000 layoffs, cool! Woooop! You're the best!]

And as for this next wedge of guff, well, words fail me:

"Unlike any other technology provider on earth, Sun will be uniquely positioned to leverage its open OS leadership and virtualization portfolio to create durable competitive advantage for Sun's systems business, and category-shifting innovations for customers."

[6,000 layoffs! Make a noise! High five! Gimme more!]

"Only the beginning of this deep systems roadmap."

[WOOOOP! Deep systems roadmap yeah! 6,000 layoffs, 6,000 layoffs!]

Do they really believe that journalists will skip over the 6,000 LAYOFFS in order to write all about this other stuff?

Here are a selection of headlines, to suggest that maybe Sun's spin hasn't been entirely successful:

Sun to cut up to 6000 employees amid economic slump (Bloomberg)

Sun to cut up to 6000 workers, 18pct of staff (Associated Press)

Sun cuts up to 18% of its staff (USA Today)

Sun cuts 5000 to 6000 jobs (ZDNet)

Note the trend towards frontloading the headline to highlight the job cuts? Why not simply be transparent about things? This is surely a case study in failing to pull the wool over the eyes of the press.

Hat tip to Forrester's Jeremiah Owyang who called out Sun, citing an "unbelievable amount of spin". He's bang on.

Here's a selection of the bad noise coming from Twitter, from the righteously appalled:

aprildunford: That's an insulting amount of spin

pnutbtrjelee: It's like they're trying to make it sound like they're handing out rainbows instead of pink slips

kevinbriody: Wow, now that is spin. Must make those 6K laid of workers feel good to be basically characterized as an impediment to Sun's success

BukolaE: Look at Sun Microsystems sugar coat their massive layoffs. Hat tip to the person who wrote this ridiculous press release

Last word goes to Oxblood Ruffin, who sums it up nicely: "Sun Microsystems Struggles To Sound Relevant When No One Is Looking To Them For Leadership".

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