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Sun CEO: There's safety in networking

Scott McNealy compares the keeping of important documents on local computer storage to hiding money in your mattress: It could get lost, stolen or destroyed.

A networked world is a safer world.

This was the theme of an interview given by Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy on Wednesday night at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, McNealy's alma mater. The taped interview will air on the PBS program "CEO Exchange."

In the interview, McNealy contrasted networked file storage with local computer storage on a hard drive.

"People stored money in their mattresses for a long time and then they discovered it either got stolen or their house would burn down, and they went to financial service providers," McNealy said. He went on to explain the importance of keeping valuable documents on networks, rather than in single locations where they could get lost, stolen or destroyed.

"If you have important medical documents, the last place you want them is in your house. You want them out on the network where you can access them from anywhere," he said. "You want them where the appropriate people can get at it if they need to, if you're lying by the side of the road."

The pitch was appropriate for Sun, maker of servers, network operating systems, networked storage systems and high-end workstations. Its products are designed to take advantage of the processing power of multiple networked computers.

During the dot-com explosion in 1999 and early 2000, McNealy trumpeted the rise of the Internet as a tribute to the direction of Sun's networking products. Although many start-up companies have died off and others slowed their hardware purchases, the CEO did not back off of his pitch on the importance of the Web to the future of business.

He explained that large companies--which typically have less than 20 percent of their company's data Web-enabled and accessible by the Internet or a company intranet--will move to network more data in the future. The process is only beginning, he explained. "It's like the first or second minute of 60-minute game."

When asked about the future of the PC, McNealy explained that the issue was not if the PC would become obsolete, but when each person would find it obsolete.

"The PC is already dead for me," McNealy said. "I go into my office, I put a 'smart' card into a very thin device and it finds my desktop and downloads it."

Despite his optimism for the future of networked computing, McNealy recently warned employees that the slowing economy will lead to continued cost cutting and tempered hiring at Sun.

Although the company met its quarterly earnings expectations last week, at least one analyst reduced revenue expectations slightly for the company on concerns surrounding the high-end hardware sales which have afflicted Hewlett Packard.

McNealy did not address his company's financial status during the interview, but did briefly address California's energy crisis and its impact on Sun.

"We're looking to grow faster in other places just because of the cost of living and power," he said.

McNealy also used the energy crisis as an opportunity to tout some of Sun's products. "The Sun Ray that we're rolling out uses about one-tenth of the power of a PC, is faster and it's more reliable than a PC. Why wouldn't you use it?"

"I believe that networking is far more energy-efficient than running around the real world," he said.