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Sun: Give Java a chance

Sun's Solaris chief preaches the gospel of Java and the opportunity to make big bucks in software for non-PC devices.

CHICAGO--Seeking converts among disaffected Windows developers, the president of Sun Microsystems' Solaris unit preached the gospel of Java and touted the opportunity to make big bucks in software for non-PC devices.

"Windows is not the answer," Sun's John McFarlane told members of the Software Publishers Association at their annual conference here today. He urged members of an organization with deep roots in the Windows and Macintosh markets to give Java a chance. "Consumers devices are not computers."

He pointed to the potential in new thin-client gadgets such as cellular phones, TV set-top boxes, smart automobiles, and network computers, as well "the ultimate thin client, the smart card."

McFarlane added: "There are huge opportunities for new software applications in the consumer space, and you have a huge opportunity to create wealth. As the Internet goes [beyond] 100 million users, that's clearly an expansion of your business."

Sun's flirtation with the SPA, which it joined only a year ago, is part of the company's broader campaign to lure software developers out of the Microsoft galaxy and into the Java orbit.

For the SPA, Sun's attentions come at a time when the software trade group, which Microsoft has strongly supported through the years, is taking increasingly anti-Microsoft stances. In recent months, the SPA has encouraged the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, sided with RealNetworks in a spat with Microsoft, and twice spurned Microsoft's No. 3 executive, Robert Herbold, in his bid for a seat on SPA's board.

Nonetheless, Microsoft--which pays annual SPA dues of $100,000--is underwriting an evening's entertainment at the group's show.

McFarlane said in an interview that his company wants to serve as a "counterbalance" to Microsoft in the association. He also called Sun a "platform company" that won't compete with software developers writing Solaris or Java applications.

Microsoft's role as both an operating system company and applications developer is a sore point with some Windows developers, who find themselves competing against the software giant.

The Solaris chief also stumped for what he called "the rise of the networked consumer" and the opportunity for developers to write "network-aware" applications that take advantage of the Internet and broad connectivity.

"The new paradigm and our thrust is that Internet computing is going to take over. It's not client-server anymore, but thin client and Internet computing," he noted.

McFarlane also urged SPA attendees to look closely at applications hosting--creating versions of software that can reside on Internet servers run by ISPs so users can access information with a Web browser.