'Anti-Gates is good business'

‘Anti-Gates is good business’
Sun president and CEO Scott McNealy believes his company is the only one able to stand up to WinTel; Heading into the post-PC era, McNealey thinks that giving everything away for free is the way to go. David Manners in Rome Sun Microsystems is the computer industry’s revolutionary dispatching its guerrillas – UltraSparc, Java, PicoJava and Jini – to raid the soft spots in the WinTel hegemony. “It’s good business to be anti-Gates,” says Scott McNealy, Sun’s chairman, president and CEO, billing himself as the only one capable of ridding the town of bad guys. “We’re the only one left. That’s the unfortunate situation. That’s why we were the only one to testify against Microsoft – because there aren’t any other computer companies out there,” says McNealy. With his own microprocessor architecture SPARC, his own Internet programming language Java, and his own interconnection system for IT appliances Jini, McNealy sees Sun as the only fully integrated computer company able to stand up to WinTel. “How much longer is the MIPS chip going to be out there? Or the PowerPC? There just aren’t other platforms out there. Compaq can’t get Gates to port Windows to Alpha or persuade Grove to have Merced run Unix.” He argues that the reasons for buying Microsoft are already eroding: “Why pay a penny for Windows when you can download Linux legally for free, when you can download Netscape Navigator legally for free, when you can download Java, legally for free?” But, he believes, a much bigger revolution is underway pushing WinTel into the sunset.”We’re heading into the post-PC era”, says McNealy, hopefully. “NCs [Network Computers] are like Freddy – they’re coming back.” “Over time, companies are going to stop buying computers. How many companies buy telephone switches? Or nuclear power plants? Or dig their own wells? It’s silly. “The concept of you taking care of your own data is as silly as looking after your own money. You don’t keep all your money in your back pocket – you give it to a stranger in a bank. It’s their job to keep it safe. The concept of storing your data remotely to be managed by professionals is the right answer.” Displaying some of the famous paranoia of his rival Andy Grove of Intel, McNealy says: “People like having local disks because they have stuff in them they don’t want their boss to see. “Most people use the PC just as a dedicated AOL (American On-Line) terminal,” says McNealy. “Can you imagine a more complicated way to access AOL?” He reckons the Year 2000 (Y2K) problem may have more than one snag – the ‘W2K’ problem – that Windows 2000 will have 40 million lines of code. “The way to access the Internet will not be the PC,” says McNealy, who plans to produce a simple Internet access terminal for 2000. Laptops do not escape the McNealy lash. “We lose two laptops a day with our 28,000 employees,” he moans. “It drives me nuts when they put company data on a laptop and don’t back it up and lose it. It’s not a personal computer it’s a Sun corporate asset.” Backed by buoyant revenues from selling servers which give him gross margins of over 50 per cent, McNealy can afford to proselytise for network computing and, last December, make PicoJava available for free to anyone who wants to use it, paying royalties only on commercialisation. “Give everything away for free,” says McNealy, “everyone’s going to provide the first hit of heroin for free.”

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