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List of Categories : Commentary * Database * Singapore * Technology * Travel *

Wed 19 Mar 2003

Scott McNealy in Singapore

Category : Commentary/ScottMcNeallyTalk.txt

"Don't you all have something to do? I thought I've walked into a Bill Gates talk." Scott McNealy, Chairman, President and CEO of Sun Microsystems, proceeded to charm the large audience, with Windows and IBM Global Services serving as butt for jokes.

"The default firewall setting in XP lets in Excel and Outlook macros, keeps out Java; that's like letting in Anthrax and blocking penicillin". "Do you want to leverage all the developers in Redmond or all the developers on the planet?" "IBM Global Services - if we can't solve your problems, we've got lots of duct tape and, as long as you've got money, we're here".

Underneath the laughter is a delicate exercise in positioning. Sun has got $5.3 billion in cash, lots more than you or I have if we should have the temerity to question Sun's continued viability. "It's Mankind versus Microsoft; and we're winning."

The theme of the talk is "The Next Big Thing in Technology". In Sun's vision, everything and everybody will be connected to the Internet. The network is the computer and it'll be driven by smart devices running Java Web Services.

But how do you talk about some of the significant changes without undermining your own position? If Open Source is a good thing, why shouldn't we all use Linux, download everything we need (after all they're free) and, best of all, use all the PCs we've already got? Just swipe out Windows.

So then, why would we want to buy more Sun SPARCstations or pay for Solaris? The proposed answer is : Open Source is not pure unadulterated good. You don't want to download stuff from the Internet. They may be tainted. Let someone like Sun package it for you. There's a limit to what Sun can charge because there's always someone else out there with the source code.

If people left the talk thinking that Open Source is somehow bad, as one attendee was overheard to complain, then who could blame them. There are subtle forces at work.

Sun's stated mission is to solve complex problems for governments and enterprises. Sun's way is to build complete "integrate-able" systems - bundling all the servers into a huge pool that they wrap a layer of services around - which companies can then subscribe to, like the model of a utility company. Hence web-tone as in dial-tone. No need for IBM Global Services to do the mix and match because an integrated system that works is what people really need. (Been there, done that, Apple?)

The problem is explaining this to people who graduate with "golf majors". So how do you access the services? You don't want to lug around a machine with you. That would be like a PC on every desk and in every home. That's Bill Gates' vision. Somehow we'll use a smart card and slot it into a terminal (a SunRay?) that will magically be there wherever we need them. How we'll get all this infrastructure set up is left as an exercise for the imagination. Kinda like throwing in more complexity to solve an already complex problem.

I used an iBook to take this note (McNealy asked, how many of us are in our office right now? I would be if we have wireless access.) In the future, I'll slot my smart Java card into my conference seat. Yeah, that's about right.

If all else should fail, talk about security. Mobility with security. "If anyone can do it, Singapore can." Somehow that feels like a left-handed compliment, or are we too touchy? "If you do .Net, there's no chance at security."

Scott McNealy wrapped up with the usual spiel about being good partners - "Sun is the most open, partnered, volume platform for services delivery." Now why can't Apple do that?

(I guess if you start off - like our hero His Steveness - with the notion that everybody is brain-dead until proven otherwise, it's hard to be convivial.)

It's great to have attended this talk. It's thoroughly good entertainment. McNealy was presented with a Chinese scroll that supposedly said "Partnership between 2 giants for the wealth of a nation." What fun.

Posted at 2:41PM UTC | permalink


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