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McNealy extends thorny olive branch to HP

Sun Microsystems Chief Executive Scott McNealy suggested the time is ripe for a partnership between his company and Silicon Valley rival Hewlett-Packard. But HP might not like the terms of the deal.

"They're not doing processors, they're not doing operating systems, they don't have middleware. Ultimately they're just reselling Wintel and other systems," McNealy said Wednesday at Sun's annual analyst conference, held this year in San Francisco. "As the Itanium thing goes away--it just has to--they become much more complementary. We can leverage their services, and they can leverage our microprocessor and operating systems R&D."

In fact, HP does have an operating system, its HP-UX version of Unix, but Sun argues it's doomed because its future rests on Intel's Itanium processors and not the widely used x86 chips such as Intel's Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron.

HP steadfastly maintains its commitment to Itanium, the high-end Intel processor HP codeveloped. HP, Intel, and seven smaller server companies said in January they'd spend $10 billion through 2010 on Itanium-related research, development, marketing and software company recruitment. McNealy was gleeful about the announcement.

"I hope that gang of companies continues to pour money down the Itanium sinkhole. That's opportunity cost that can't be measured," he said.

McNealy also touted HP's support of Sun's Solaris 10 operating system. "The majority of (Solaris) downloads we see are onto HP," he said. (HP argues that its support for Solaris doesn't constitute an endorsement but rather serves as a good way to coax would-be Sun customers into the HP fold.)