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Sun CEO says Microsoft still doesn't get the Net

December 10, 1999
Web posted at: 9:54 a.m. EST (1454 GMT)

by John Cox

Network World Fusion

NEW YORK (IDG) -- Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy used his keynote speech at the Java Business Expo to beat up on Microsoft again, painting an image of his arch-rival as a dinosaur in the age of Internet computing.

Mimicking a whiny e-mail correspondent, McNealy said people keep sending messages asking why can't he leave Microsoft alone? "Because it's fun," he told his audience of Java developers and IS managers.

The conference is in New York City, and McNealy ran through a list of current Broadway plays, giving them a slightly different theme from what theatergoers now see. "Les Miserables" became the story of Microsoft's legal team, which suffered the striking court setback in the antitrust case. The seasonal favorite, "The Nutcracker," features a special guest appearance by...U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

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But he finally put aside the barbs, while implying that Microsoft is simply out of step with the nature and pace of Internet computing.

The Internet, McNealy told an audience of Java developers, vindicates Sun's longstanding, and so far still unrealized, insistence that the "network is the computer." Corporate data and applications are being rapidly shifted to Web sites, he said, because the Web's standard protocols give users ready access to these resources from anywhere.

He expressed amazement that one corporation he visited recently had a created a firewall to block its employees from accessing the Internet. "You should be encouraging them to get on the Internet," he said.

The real revolution of the Internet is that "things" not just people can now be networked, he said. In Formula 1 racing, 4M bytes of data are downloaded on each lap to a Sun server for the Sun-sponsored racecar. "Anything with a digital heartbeat can be connected," he said.

McNealy demonstrated a pair of Sun Rays, thin clients linked to a Solaris server by Sun's HotDesk software. Sun is licensing these thin clients to software and hardware vendors. The server maintains all information about the user's session, and handles all processing associated with it, except the display of pixels on the client device.

McNealy pulled out a power cord from the Sun Ray he was using, retrieved his authenticating smartcard, then walked across the stage to a second Sun Ray. After inserting the card, he was back in the session that he'd lost when the power failed.

Where users are not on a 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet, they can use the iPlanet Desktop software. Users call up any Java-enabled Web browser, to access a URL, where their Web-enabled desktop is stored. The demonstration showed a browser display with corporate and personal data as well as Java applets to access e-mail, calendaring and other servers.

During a question and answer period, McNealy said Sun has no plans yet to turn Java over to a standards body. He defended Sun's stewardship of the language and its associated APIs and services. "We're trying to move this at the speed of light," he said.

"We're losing money on Java," he added. "And we're losing more every year. But our stock price is the best it's ever been. It must be that Internet thing -- our investors love it.

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