Failed Sun Buyout Saved Apple, iPods

Imagine a world without the iPod, iPhone, or iPad. Back in the mid-1990s, when Apple was struggling through its worst financial woes, there were plans for Sun Microsystems, the developers of Java, to buyout Apple. “Back in late 1995 early ’96, when we were at our peak, we were literally hours away from buying Apple for about $5 to $6 a share,” said Ed Zander, who had built Sun’s software business into a powerhouse and was rewarded with promotion to CEO by his mentor, Scott McNealy.

“Honest to gosh, I was at an analysts’ meeting in San Diego on a Tuesday morning and was getting ready to announce that we were going to buy Apple. I don’t know what we were going to do with it, but we were going to buy it. (Apple) had no CEO at the time, Steve (Jobs) wasn’t there, but we didn’t get it. Why didn’t we buy it?”

Sun Microsystems eventually dropped out of the deal because of a numerous amount of terms and conditions, a decision that ultimately saved the existence of iOS devices. “If we had bought Apple, there wouldn’t have been iPods or iPads … I’d have screwed that up,” McNealy conceded in a talk Feb. 24 with another former Sun CEO, Ed Zander, at a Churchill Club dinner at the Santa Clara Convention Center.


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