Sun's McNealy plots death of Windows via Java

My mistake: A report earlier this week concluded that Sun Microsystems has given up its bid to oust Windows with Java and was, instead, focusing the programming language on other goals. Nobody told Sun CEO Scott McNealy, however, who has historically offered many quips and complaints about arch-rival Microsoft. This week, McNealy was interviewed by PC Week and he offered some interesting comments about Microsoft, Java, Solaris support for Windows NT, and the future of computing.

McNealy is still pushing the concept of thin clients, which require some hefty hardware on the server end (preferably running Sun's Solaris, of course).

"For the consumers... we don't want them to have to have a workstation, we don't want them to have 40 million lines of code on their desktops," he said, in a reference to Windows NT 5.0. "We want a very simple Java browser engine. Most mere mortals don't need more than browser access to all these IP services, and we want to make sure our servers are the best at providing these services."

McNealy also discussed Sun's decision to support native Windows NT services on Solaris. Sun's previous strategy for Windows NT was to pretend it didn't exist, and this technology represents an amazing about-face for the company.

"As you know, last week we announced some NT services...It was...hard to get access \[to the technology\] because Microsoft keeps all of their interfaces proprietary, so it's really been an issue of working with partners, since Microsoft won't work with us," McNealy said. "They've showed us that time and time again...They don't want our input. They for some reason don't think interoperability and cross-platform compatibility is a good thing. They've proven that with their Java license."

"We've been working on providing NT interoperability, from day one, with Java and Web-based protocols," McNealy continues. "Working with our partner AT&T, we're able to deliver basically all of the key NT services, from print and file all the way through to sign-on and authentication, all with the same great ease of use and administration you want in the PC world. But you get the reliability and the scalability of the Solaris engine underneath. So you get the best of both worlds. That's a pretty interesting opportunity for IS directors."

According to McNealy, Intel Corporation is doing what it can to end the "WinTel" alliance. There's been some talk of Intel openly courting Linux vendors, Be Inc., and other makers of non-Microsoft operating systems, so this probably isn't too far off the mark.

"There are three major projects \[Intel is\] very interested in. One is Solaris. NT 5.0 is late, late, late, fat, fat, fat and 32-bit, 32-bit, 32-bit, and they want fast, scalable, reliable 64-bit operating systems to go with their next-generation Merced technology," he says. "The second major area we're working together on is Java virtual machines. They want to have all Java applets run like the wind on their instruction sets, so we're working very closely with them."

Sun is also working with Intel on a technology called Jini, which is Sun's admittedly exciting idea for network-centric computing where any device, be it cell phone, TV, personal computer, whatever, would have a minimum amount of code built-in that would allow it to connect to the network and announce its availability and feature-set. Jini-compatible software could be written in any language, much like Microsoft's COM/DCOM, but the technology is designed to work with a wide range of devices, not just computers.

"All of our products, every device we sell, will be Java capable and Jini-ready," McNealy said.

As for Java, McNealy says that it's already on the way to displacing Windows as the platform of choice.

"\[Java\] is absolutely displacing Windows. Look how much more time you're spending in the Java \[compatible\] browser than you are on the Windows environment today. Look how much more time you're doing HTML and Java applets vs. pure Windows Word and PowerPoint. So it's all happening. You'd almost rather give up your Windows environment than your Java browser at this point," he says, somewhat optimistically. "You've now started to basically cut over. That is absolutely an accurate statement of what's happening, despite the squawks and squeals coming from the Pacific Northwest. They understand the issues...I believe that's the core reason they went in breach of their Java licensing contract."

In the end, Scott McNealy is an interesting, provocative, and yes, extremely opinionated individual. If you'd like to read the whole interview, it's online at the PC Week Web site

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