Ex-Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz Launches Health IT Firm

Picture of Health is recruiting staff for a firm that aims to "leverage technology in pursuit of better health."

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

September 10, 2010

3 Min Read

Jonathan Schwartz, former CEO of Sun Microsystems, has emerged after six months of silence following the absorption of Sun Microsystems by Oracle. Schwartz, who has been a target of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's jibes for his propensity to blog, posted a blog about his new startup, called Picture of Health.

He said on his personal blog Sept. 9 that he and a friend, Walter Smith, a Carnegie Mellon graduate in applied mathematics and co-founder of Jackson Fish Market, a designer and builder of consumer websites, had decided to go into business together. Smith is also a former Microsoft software architect who worked on Internet Explorer, Windows, and MSN, and an Apple software developer. He is CTO of Picture of Health.

Schwartz couldn't be reached for comment, but he indicated in his blog post that he wished to get away from the multi-component task of building Ultrasparc systems and Java software in favor of something more directly beneficial to people in the field of health.

Picture of Health is the name of a website that's recruiting staff for the company, but is not necessarily the company's ultimate name, Schwartz said in an interview Sept. 9 with The New York Times. The article explained that PictureofHealth.com "is mostly a single page with a links to job openings. We want people that love math and what we're doing," Schwartz said.

The story continued: "Exactly what Mr. Schwartz is doing remains unclear. He would only talk in vague terms about the venture, saying the goal is to 'leverage technology in pursuit of better health.' Over the course of the interview, Mr. Schwartz made it sound as if the company will develop software and services to help people keep track of their health information and to create direct links between patients and healthcare providers."

In his Sept. 9 personal blog, he added: "We're not saying much beyond 'we're focusing on the intersection of innovation and public health,' but we are starting to build out a dev and design team. So if you care about health and technology, we'd love to hear from you here. Why are we focusing on health? It's ultimately a personal choice for both of us. For me, perhaps the most satisfying part of my last job was seeing Sun's technology used in ways and by people that changed the world."

He said he wanted to set a different goal than have winning SAP deals that consolidated regional bank processes. "Health is something different. Everyone cares about it in a deeply personal way (it's tough to say the same about specialized microprocessors). Mums, dads, children, friends, loved ones, nurses, doctors, even insurance companies and governments -- everyone on earth, in one form or another, cares about health and well being. To me, that's easy to get excited about. And a pretty big market," he wrote in his blog.

Schwartz served as CEO of Sun from 2006-2010. He joined the company as part of its 1996 acquisition of Lighthouse Design, where he served as CEO. He served as director of product marketing for JavaSoft, Sun's software division in 1997, and showed a flair for highlighting the intangible assets of software. He served in several Sun VP spots before being named CEO and had advocated that Sun compete with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and x86 server makers through a disruptive, open source code strategy. By giving away key pieces of Sun's software, customers who might gravitate to the larger hardware manufacturers would have an excuse to keep buying Sun servers and workstations, he said.

Sun enjoyed prosperity during the dot.com boom, when its defense of Java and a more open approach, versus proprietary languages, won converts among startup companies. But the dot.com bust hit Sun hard and it never fully regained its stride as a technology innovator.

Schwartz exited Sun with a tweet. His statement had fewer than 140 characters:
Financial crisis
Stalled too many customers
CEO no more

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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