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Sun’s McNealy to Enter ‘Utility’ Business

Scott McNealy, chairman of Sun Microsystems, announced that Sun intends to eventually reposition itself as an information utility that provides services and functionality via a Web-based “dial tone.”

“I’d like to reduce our pricing to a single line item,” he told attendees at Tuesday’s keynote session at the GartnerGroup ITxpo currently taking place in Orlando, Fla.

This would consist of a single service he calls “Big Freaking Webtone Switch,” to be delivered by 200 service partners. Sun customers would be able to “buy ‘power by the hour’” for a range of IT needs, from transaction processing to storage. Pricing would be incremental.

Ideally, applications should be wrapped up and packaged so users don’t have to worry about installations and upgrades, he said. “Software’s a feature, not an industry,” McNealy said. “An automobile has 100 processors – it’s iron-wrapped software. When was the last time you bought ‘left-blinker’ software?”

While McNealy did not provide a timeline for the Webtone switch offering, he says this will be the next generation of Sun products, and that the company is actively evolving its products in this direction.

“The big challenge is getting everybody to understand we’re not a big engineering company. An engineer is somebody who pays extra for an unassembled bicycle,” he quipped.

McNealy muted his legendary criticism of Microsoft, focusing instead on the Webtone strategy. He said Sun remains committed to an open systems strategy, noting that Java, Jini and the StarOffice suite are freely available, and that Sun recently released the source code for StarOffice.

“Nobody is going to play the games Microsoft played in the 80s and 90s,” he said. He also noted that Sun would willingly include Microsoft technology in its portfolio. “If C# ever happens, we’ll be very happy to incorporate that into our development tools.”

McNealy did, however, launch a salvo at Intel, which competes with its own UltraSPARC processor. “We don’t obsolete our customer base, unlike IA-64, which will make you redo everything,” he said.

McNealy also provided thoughts on the course of the dot-com sector, which Sun heavily promotes itself to. He noted that while Sun currently supports 2,200 dot coms, “I fully expect four to five of them to survive,” he said, half-joking. “The real win is the bricksters adding clicks.” -- Joe McKendrick

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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