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McNealy to percolate Java

CEO Scott McNealy says Sun will pursue standardizing its programming language even if current efforts with the International Standards Organization are unsuccessful.

LOS ANGELES--Sun Microsystems (SUNW) will pursue standardizing its Java programming language even if current efforts with the International Standards Organization (ISO) don't result in making Java a standard, company chief executive Scott McNealy told CNET's NEWS.COM today in an exclusive interview.

McNealy, speaking at Oracle's annual developer conference, also claimed that Microsoft, in masterminding an open letter last week suggesting how Java should be standardized, committed a public relations blunder.

The Sun executive also contended that targeting the number of network computers now deployed is the wrong approach for Java. Instead, he said, the number of Java-capable browsers in use is more important, because Java is what enables NCs to run.

"We are 800 days into Java," he declared in his keynote speech at Oracle's developer conference. He also said he has been using a JavaStation exclusively in his office for 90 days now and that 3,000 JavaStations have been deployed inside Sun, with another 7,000 planned in the next 12 months.

NEWS.COM: You guys have been pretty adamant today about the process of making Java into a standard.
McNealy: I think we've been incredibly open by following the ISO process. We've been asking the ISO, "Do you want us to withdraw from the process? Shall we move ahead?" And they say, "No, don't withdraw."

If this [standardization] doesn't happen with ISO, there are lots of other standards bodies that would love to manage Java as a process. We have aped [the ISO's] process in every way we know. If we don't get the certification, we won't change the process. We are not apologetic about it at all.

What exactly is your position now with ISO?
We are not going to give away the Java trademark. If Microsoft thinks we should, then it should lead the way and do the same with Windows.

We have clearly stated in our comments today that we reaffirm the ISO process. We have said ISO can print and sell copies of the standards, called "Specifications for the Java Platform."

So what was behind that open letter anyway? It wasn't just Microsoft, but also Intel, Digital Equipment, and Compaq.
It was about losing profits. The Microsoft open letter last week backfired. You wouldn't be here if they hadn't written the letter--it was just brain-dead of them. I can't thank Bill Gates enough for sending that letter.

Then he pulled the Java applets off his Web site. Name one person outside Microsoft who cares if there's Java on that Web site. Even people inside Microsoft love to use Java.

Basically, he's aggravated all his customers and created a huge media [event].

How do you think your ISO standards effort is being received?
Basically, they've all figured out what's going on here. I haven't had one email from anybody concerned about how we're handling it.

Microsoft and Intel never showed up at ISO meetings until recently. You have to be at two meetings to vote, and they did show up for the last two meetings. After this issue is over, they'll skedaddle again.

Why are you going through the ISO process at all?
Some people want an independent process, so it will help us with some customers. Look what we've done for the "100 Percent Pure Java" initiative--there's an outside entity that certifies software for being 100 percent pure. It's important to have an independent body in the process.

What about the deployment of network computers, or JavaStations, as you call them?
The delivery mechanism is the Java browser. The JavaStation is just a way to run a Java browser. The key is what have you deployed as a Java application. For that, you don't need a JavaStation.

This thing about hardware is too much. As people spend more time in the Java browser, IS can just swap out the PC over the weekend sometime. The JavaStation is only the viewer.

What is the right measure of Java's acceptance?
Hundreds of large companies are doing JavaStation pilots, and they tend to be more for dedicated environments. But it's much more important for me the gazillion Java browsers that are deployed, because that opens up the way to JavaStations. There's no other way to get to JavaStations.

At Sun, it will take us about two years to get to an all-Java environment. I think it will take longer for other companies because we can move faster.

First, you get the Java browser--it can be our HotJava or Netscape's Navigator or Communicator or [Microsoft's] Internet Explorer or Netscape's Javagator, written entirely in Java.

Then applications have to be written to the Java client, and then you pick the hardware. Now you can see what hardware you want to deploy.