Sun-set for 2 key executives

Sun Microsystems is losing two key executives on the eve of the company's most public conference devoted to its Java software.

Sun Microsystems is losing two key executives on the eve of the company's most public conference devoted to its Java software.

David Gee, lured to Sun a year ago from his role promoting Java at IBM, was vice president of Sun's iForce community program. He left Sun on May 23, Sun spokeswoman Carrie Motamedi confirmed, to take a job at eMikolo Networks, a start-up devoted to speeding up Web surfing by "caching" information closer to those who need it and by using Sun's Jxta software for directly connecting computers.

iForce was set up to make sure Sun's products work with those of its business partners. Sun invested US$300 million to help partners market their iForce wares when the program was announced in March 2000. The program was originally billed as a way that companies could "dot-com" themselves quickly to take advantage of the Internet, a market that now has cooled with the sharp computer spending slowdown.

Also leaving Sun is George Paolini, vice president of technology evangelism and marketing and a key figure in Sun's political efforts to promote Java. He will depart on June 8, the last day of Sun's JavaOne conference.

Paolini will be chief marketing officer at Zaplet, a company led by Sun's former software chief Alan Baratz that augments e-mail with Java features to make it more useful for collaborative work.

Paolini has been involved in the "Sun One" plan to incorporate the Web more deeply into Sun's business software. One source said he was hoping to run the program.

The changes are hitting Sun at a pivotal time. The company has been hammered by repeated financial warnings of lowered expectations, and analysts have been pondering if the company might take drastic measures to cope with the dwindling revenues.

"We expect it will now take more dramatic and/or uncharacteristic measures to shake up the company and move away from some of its sacred cows, potentially including layoffs, eliminating less critical research and development projects," curtailing acquisitions and selling other companies' products instead of designing them in-house, Goldman Sachs analyst Laura Conigliaro said in a report Wednesday.

Java could be one program in line for cuts. The software, intended to undermine Microsoft's power, lets programs run on many different computers without having to be changed for each one. But Java has sprawled to encompass devices from the highest-end servers to the tiny cell phones. The project consumes a large fraction of Sun's programming and political resources.

Paolini's job will be filled for the time being by Cherylin Chin, Motamedi said. Sun doesn't currently have a replacement for Gee.

eMikolo, based in Redwood Shores, Calif., didn't immediately return calls for comment about Gee's role. The company is led by Chief Executive Moshe Raines and funded by Israel Seed Partners.

eMikolo plans to exhibit its technology next week at Sun's Jxta Pavilion at the JavaOne conference.