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Scott and Larry pat each other's backs

Sun's chairman and CEO Scott McNealy opened Oracle's annual users' meeting today with a stump speech extolling the virtues of Sun's and Oracle's network computing initiatives.

    Sun Microsystems (SUN) chairman and CEO Scott McNealy opened Oracle's (ORCL) annual users' meeting today with a stump speech extolling the virtues of Sun's and Oracle's network computing initiatives.

    Speaking to a partisan crowd at the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, McNealy used an election-week parody to urge participants to "vote" for Oracle and Sun. Not surprisingly, he derided competing initiatives currently under development by Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM to use thin-client systems and Web browsers to access private company intranet applications and the Internet

    "You should put all of your investment into the network environment," said McNealy, telling the audience to "freeze investment in your mainframes" and to quit upgrading legacy software and hardware and to pour the savings into the new systems that he said are the future of computing.

    "This is an opportunity to...go to an open computer environment," said McNealy. Holding up a $742 JavaStation, he outlined a future in which network users would turn maintenance over to company IS departments, telecommunication providers, cable companies, Internet service providers, or "whoever has a cable into your world," he said. "If it breaks, just throw it away."

    McNealy put the cost of use for a workstation running the Sun Solaris operating system at about $5,000 a year per desktop. With the JavaStation thin client, he said the cost could fall by as much as half.

    Returning to the election theme, McNealy deferred to his host, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, referring to the two companies network computing strategies as the "Ellison/McNealy" ticket that promised "zero administration" on a thin client. He derided the similar Microsoft-Intel NetPC architecture.

    Some 15,000 corporate executives and developers are signed up for the week-long meeting, according to Oracle president Ray Lane, who introduced McNealy with a speech outlining the company's plans to move aggressively into new markets. He said Oracle will also deepen its presence in areas such as groupware applications, where the company's InterOffice has gained market share, growing into a $1 billion business for the shrink-wrapped software package.

    If the supposedly cheaper and easier-to-use network computers take hold with a broader market, Lane touted unprecedented market opportunities.

    "This will produce an entirely new economy: the network economy," Lane said. "Oracle has totally positioned itself to be a leader in the network world."

    While McNealy used slides and even a video parody of a famous 1984 Apple Computer television ad to hammer the current Microsoft-Intel view of the world, it was Lane who launched the election theme. He urged conference attendees to get out and vote, especially on the controversial California Proposition 211, a ballot initiative that would make it easier for investors to sue companies over misleading financial statements. While he did not seek to sway the audience, he made reference to pins urging a "no" vote on the proposal that had been widely distributed to the crowd prior to the speech.