Predictable McNealy sings same song - slamming MS

Listening to Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems Inc., one could easily draw the conclusion that most of the ills in the computer industry stem from one company, and one company only.

McNealy used large portions of his keynote address at Sun's JavaOne developers conference in San Francisco Thursday, as well as a subsequent press conference, to paint Microsoft Corp. as a ruthless monopoly destroying companies and promoting a flawed business model.

"The market economy works until somebody gets so much market power that they are beyond market principles," he said. However, when asked about the recent nearly 24-hour crash of auction site eBay, which uses Sun software, McNealy had little comment. "There was just a whole host of issues that for Sun and eBay are better left unsaid," he said. "We'll do better. It's all part of the growing process."

Regarding Microsoft, McNealy said the software giant's monopoly on the desktop through the Windows operating system enables it to sell "bloat" like Office 2000 that people have to buy. "The other opportunity it has is to go out and buy little companies that wouldn't normally be successful, bundle them into their Windows or Office hairball and use their lock-in and monopoly leverage to make them successful and drive everyone else out of business," McNealy said. "That makes everybody want to sell their company for a price lower than they want to, because if you're not the one bought, you're done."

During the keynote, McNealy, clad in a black Java T-shirt and accompanied by his toddler-age son, presented "case studies" of Compaq Computer Corp. and IBM, each of which had "partnered" with Microsoft and Intel Corp., only to find themselves in a position where Microsoft had too much control over their PC products. "Every computer company in the business, except Sun, has fundamentally been forced to run the gauntlet by Intel and Microsoft," McNealy said. As a result, IBM turned to systems integration and services as its main growth engine, McNealy said, while Compaq is still reeling, although McNealy placed some of the blame on former CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer, who resigned in April. "Acquiring [Digital Equipment Corp.] was like acquiring the Titanic after the iceberg," McNealy said.

Turning to computer viruses, which have been much in the news of late, McNealy pointed out that "those are Windows viruses, not computer viruses." "PCs with Windows ... are out of control," he said. "They're not safe."

Unix systems, on the other hand, are not susceptible to viruses, and Java security has always been tight because Java applications run in a "sandbox" that isolates them from the rest of the operating system. "If it's mission-critical, it should be written in Java," McNealy said. "Security isn't a feature. It's a requirement."

McNealy attacked Microsoft's business model of selling software, saying that the Internet has created a new paradigm in which services will be sold. "It turns out that Microsoft is running the gauntlet [now]," McNealy said. "What they're offering as software is becoming services."

In another demo, McNealy showed how company employees could go on the Internet and access a personal portal. Downloading Java applets to the client, they can access application services, such as e-mail or calendars, with security handled by a Java SmartCard on the client device to establish users' ID and access.

Of course, McNealy's new way of computing, which favours thin clients and fat servers, fits in with Sun's product line of expensive, enterprise servers capable of hosting applications and portals.

As for Sun's ongoing lawsuit against Microsoft for violating its Java license, McNealy said in the Q&A session that his intention was just to get Microsoft to abide by the contract. "I want Microsoft to go five straight years shipping Java-compatible technology," he said.

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