Following the morning keynote at JavaOne, Scott McNealy discussed his new role at Sun and took a few questions from the press. He half-joked that he was thrilled not be CEO. "It's a temporary thing I took over 22 years ago," he said. In reference to new CEO Jonathan Schwartz, he said that he and Schwartz were highly aligned, and that Schwartz "just may be way better than me."
In his role as Sun's Chairman and as the head evangelist for Sun Federal, McNealy said he would focus on the U.S. government (Sun's number one customer, he said), Japanese partnerships and with the top 20 accounts, mentioning Google, Comcast and financial services and telecom companies. He also mentioned Yahoo as a "new and emerging" customer. Sun, he said, wants to be an arms merchant--providing the infrastructure--to service providers of the world providing online access to applications, services and devices to billions of people.
I asked McNealy what kind of business Sun is doing with Google, but he wasn't willing to share any specifics for fear of alienating his former employee and now Google CEO Eric Schmidt. "Eric Schmidt is driving carefully not to give away strategy and tactics, and I’m not going to share anything we are doing with him for fear of getting him getting angry. With $700 million in capital budget, I am not about to piss him off," McNealy said. Score another point for Google's opaque transparency.
When asked who is Sun's biggest competitor, McNealy zeroed in on IBM. "Our biggest competitor is customization via IBM global services and fueled by CIOs who want to build their own Frankenstein," McNealy said. "No one else has all the pieces to build a grid...IBM specialized in custom Frankenstein grids,so you need global services to keep it running," he added. Sun $1 per CPU grid is all about taking costly customization and headcount out of the equation, solving the problem through technology, according to McNealy. It's a battle that is just beginning and will define Jonathan Schwartz's tenure...