Sun has taken the strange (to my mind) step of changing their NASDAQ stock symbol from SUNW (apparently it stood for “Stanford University Network Workstation,” and according to Jonathan Schwartz in a blog item, where he comments on the change, the SUNW symbol “heralds back to Sun’s cherished roots (in academia)”).
The reason given by Mr Schwartz is:
To be very clear, this isn’t about changing the company name or focus … But we [Sun] are no longer simply a workstation company, nor a company whose products can be limited by one category – and Java does a better job of capturing exactly that sentiment than any other four letter symbol. Java means limitless opportunity – for our software, systems, storage, service and microelectronics businesses. And for the open source communities we shepherd. What a perfect ticker.
Ticker symbols are sometimes seen as status symbols in the US – in particular having a single character ticker symbol on the NY Stock Exchange (for instance AT&T’s symbol is “T“) has a certain cache. However in general stock symbols are 4 letter abbreviations of the company name (goog for google, msft for microsoft etc). However I can’t think of another company that uses the ticker symbol to make a marketing statement as this seems to be (that Sun = Java = Sun).
Without any inside knowledge one could speculate that there has been another round of internal discussion about whether to rename the company to Java and it has ended in this compromise. What is not in doubt is that Sun remains on the horns of its long standing dilemma: how to get the maximum commercial benefit from its creation of Java without undermining Java success. Frankly, I can’t see changing the stock ticker symbol making much difference either commercially or on the investor front.