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Sun's McNealy blasts Microsoft

CEO Scott McNealy dishes out his standard fare of anti-Microsoft rhetoric while portraying his company as the ideal partner for OEMs.

    SAN FRANCISCO--Today at a conference for Sun Microsystems (SUNW) customers, Scott McNealy, Sun's chairman and CEO, dished out his standard fare of anti-Microsoft rhetoric while portraying his company as the ideal place for OEM partners to get everything from processor technology to real-time operating systems.

    McNealy made his address to a crowd of executives in industries ranging from automobile manufacturers to consumer electronics companies.

    "We aren't interested in global domination," McNealy said. "We don't need to make consumer electronics devices or do silicon. It doesn't bother us that our technology can be priced cheaply."

    The executives at OEM Executive Summit '97 were on hand to look at ways of incorporating Sun technologies such as the Java programming language into everything from smart cards and Internet set-top boxes to microcontrollers that would allow for remote diagnostics in truck engines.

    Saying that Intel and Microsoft still "don't get it" when it comes to partnering with customers, McNealy claimed Sun can provide the services, design expertise, and support that manufacturers need. In the industries that Sun intends to sell its expertise and technology, Sun's customers are less concerned with brand name and more concerned with designing products quickly and selling them as inexpensively as possible, he suggested.

    McNealy--whose anti-Microsoft diatribes are seen as patently self-serving--derided Windows CE and the rest of Microsoft's operating systems as not being "scalable," or able to run across a wide range of devices because each one has different capabilities and cannot be used interchangeably. Microsoft is targeting Windows CE at many of the same markets Sun wants to place Java in, including consumer electronics devices. McNealy warned device manufacturers that "It's just another effort to lock you in to an upgrade maneuver."

    "What they did to PC makers, they'll do to consumer electronics firms," McNealy said. "They're a dangerous partner...they'll go in and compete with you."

    Sun, on the other hand, is primarily interested in selling the server computers that all of these new devices will connect to, as well as high-end workstations needed to design the devices and "enterprise NCs" that he promised would replace today's desktop PCs.

    McNealy also took time to harangue Microsoft products for being difficult to use and prone to security problems. "Anything more aggressive than changing a file name requires a reboot in Windows," he quipped.

    Speaking to Java in applications such as smart cards, he claimed the Windows operating system was ideal for the incubation of computer viruses. Java, on the other hand, has a "safe, prophylactic way" for connecting devices to the Internet. This is important because Java-based smart cards are being looked at for use in by banks and credit card companies as a sort of "virtual cash" machine, among other uses.

    The meeting was set up by Sun to offer its customers a look at companies who are using their technology in novel ways. Home Depot, for instance, talked about its plans to incorporate Java-based thin clients into point-of-sales systems at its hardware stores.

    Sun says the focused push into component and technology licensing will help manufacturing partners bring products to market more quickly. To that end, executives are addressing how some of the company's recent acquisitions, including Diba and Chorus Systems, will play into Sun's push into the market for consumer electronics and networking equipment. Diba specializes in designing hardware for "information appliances" such as Internet set-top boxes, while Chorus is best known for operating systems for telecommunications products.

    At the conference, Sun detailed for customers development of its line of UltraSparc and Java processors and the use of the different "flavors" of Java by companies for connecting disparate computing systems together.

    In related news, Sun is readying its "Road to Java" campaign, which will gather existing Java training, support, and consulting services under one umbrella. The company will officially announce the program at its upcoming International Internet Associates conference in Berlin, Germany.

    The services comprise four groups: education and training, professional services, management, and developer services. The education and professional services are based in 225 "Java centers," branch offices in 44 countries run by Sun and third parties, including Ernst and Young, Electronic Data Systems, Cap Gemini, and others. Java partner IBM, which has one of the world's most extensive consulting services and has also boasts of a round-the-clock Java programming effort, is not participating in the Java center program, said Mark Bauhaus, Sun's director of Internet and Java consulting.

    Average cost of consulting services for a 6-to-15 week Java project is about $40,000, according to Bauhaus. Java center consultants are focused on pure-Java applications but will work on projects that require native code, he said. Sun does not have an exact head count of staff at the Java centers.

    The company will soon publish a Web site that list all the Java centers and their areas of expertise.