McNealy Interview

Information Week has a expansive interview with Sun CEO Scott McNealy. This is what he has to say about Linux and Mad Hatter, “which is our desktop strategy”, which is about thin clients and thick servers:

We’re using a whole bunch of open source–Gnome and Mozilla and Evolution and then the Linux operating system with the Java virtual machine StarOffice, Sun Ray Client, Java card readers, that sort of thing. And we’re going to build a wonderful Microsoft-free desktop. And if you want to know my longer-term opinion, I believe that Solaris is a fabulous answer on the server, and I think Linux is a fabulous answer on the desktop.

And what we’re doing also is we’re putting the same exact user interface that we’re putting on top of Linux on the desktop, so StarOffice, Mozilla, Gnome, Evolution, Sun Ray stuff, all the rest of it, all on Solaris for our workstations.

So your Sparc Solaris workstation sitting alongside an x86 Mad Hatter desktop will be indistinguishable because you can’t see the Solaris kernel or the Linux kernel. If you have the two screens side by side, you wouldn’t be able to tell. And then our thin-client strategy with Sun Ray will also have the identical user interface, so the only way you’ll know that it’s a Sun Ray is it won’t make any noise. The other two will make lots of noise. But visually you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Here is his vision of how it gets used:

So anywhere in North America I’ll be able to roam to my desktop from any Sun Ray from my smart card and roaming from home. And then by October I’ll have session transfer, and this is some new technology we’re working on where when I go to Europe or Asia I’ll stick my smart card in a Sun Ray in Europe or Asia and it will, unattended, in a matter of three or four minutes shut down my session in California on Sun Ray server and restart it on the local continent, and now I’ll be roaming on that continent with my smart card again.

So what are the barriers to this? Two. One is they’ve got to get off [Microsoft Office]. They don’t have to, but it certainly increases the mobility and the opportunity here by moving off of Microsoft Office to StarOffice because StarOffice runs on the Sun Ray, it runs on your Linux, it runs on your Windows. If you’re using StarOffice, you are inherently much more multiplatform and mobile, and by the way, you save a lot of money there, too. Every time I turn around there’s another way to save money.

The second thing is that if you can get your applications to be server-based and accessible from a travel browser as opposed to accessible from Windows, then you really can start to go wireless and you can start to use the 100 million Java phones out there to not only access any device that’s connected to the wireline network, but you can use these phones to access your mail or your CRM or your StarOffice documents from a wireless Java handset. Now you really do have mobility with security. So we think this is a big model change.


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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.