Sun executive plans to boost software efforts

Jonathan Schwartz has moved another step up at Sun Microsystems and hopes to tow the company's software efforts with him up the corporate ladder.

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Jonathan Schwartz has moved another step up at Sun Microsystems and hopes to tow the company's software efforts with him up the corporate ladder.

Schwartz, who had led Sun's $400 million program to invest in other companies, has been promoted to senior vice president of corporate strategy and planning, Sun said today. In the new job, Schwartz said he'll lead a staff of 100 in long-range business and financial planning, identifying Sun's allies and adversaries, establishing industry partnerships, and acquiring some companies and investing in others.

"My job is to support both Ed and Scott for executing their strategies," Schwartz said, referring to chief operating officer Ed Zander and chief executive officer Scott McNealy.

As part of that job, Schwartz expects to increase the prominence of software at Sun, a company that makes most of its money selling computers. "Sun is ultimately in the systems business," Schwartz said, "but I don't think there is any business at Sun that can claim software isn't at its very heart."

Schwartz's emphasis on software will be manifested in one way by boosting Java, Sun's controversial yet ever-spreading technology that shields programmers from the differences among widely divergent types of computing devices. Java has made its mark on servers and desktop computers, but in the future will gain greater prominence in smart credit card-sized computers and telecommunications services, as phone and computer networks become one and the same, Schwartz predicted.

"Anything that you program on the planet will ultimately be programmed with Java. I believe that today more than I ever believed it," Schwartz said.

Another software focus will be in improving servers--in particular, in getting them to work with more types of devices and to make sure crashes are reduced to a bare minimum.

"There was a day when you looked at servers, they were all about desktops. Now, they are every bit (as much) about serving telephones as they are serving things in your office or home that may attach to the Internet," Schwartz said.

Schwartz replaces Bill Raduchel, formerly Sun's chief strategy officer, who left in September to become America Online's chief technology officer.

In the nine months since, Sun's individual business units have been dealing with business contracts, long-term planning and acquisitions, Schwartz said.

In recent years, Sun's biggest competitors have been Microsoft, with its Windows software dominance and its sway over hardware makers, and computer makers Hewlett-Packard and IBM. Now that's changing, Schwartz said.

"For the most part, those days are over. Now the opportunity is to drive the pace of Internet adoption through delivering entirely new applications," he said. For example, Sun believes it can make money selling storage equipment and creating servers up to the task of communicating with multitudes of non-PC devices.

Schwartz joined Sun in 1996 when Sun acquired his company, a software firm called Lighthouse Design, of which Schwartz was CEO.

He will continue to oversee Sun's venture program, one of many at high-tech companies that are trying to benefit from the rapidly ascending stock price of successful start-ups. Sun has invested in a wide range of companies.

Schwartz said Sun has come to view such investments as important not so much because a start-up's stock can be sold for profit, but rather because Sun's investments can create opportunities that directly boost Sun's operating revenues.