CeBIT: Microsoft ‘licensed Java to kill Netscape’, McNealy claims

Three drops of poison

Microsoft licensed Java to kill Netscape, Sun CEO Scott McNealy claims. Speaking at CeBIT in Hanover, McNealy said Microsoft followed the licensing rules for about a year and a half, until it had damaged Netscape sufficiently. For Microsoft to drop Java support would be as serious a step as junking support for TCP/IP, he argued. McNealy used a Coca-Cola analogy: Microsoft had stuck to the (Java) formula, but suddenly it added three drops of poison to the formula, and shipped a Windows virtual machine. McNealy observed that Microsoft has a great deal of code in Java and will probably decide to become compliant with the recent court order for pragmatic reasons. However, he could not be sure of what the US court system would do, reminding the audience that Clinton was still President. But he is sure that Sun is getting ready for the post-PC era of thin clients and wireless devices. He has run the company for the last two years with just a Java Station in his office -- and had doubled the value of Sun in that period. Personal Java was running on top of Windows CE in a prototype, but so far Sun has been unable to persuade market-leader 3Com to agree to support Java on its Palm Pilot, although the Symbian alliance was significant. McNealy said that he had seen a Palm Pilot running Java. Taco Bell had decided against NT Servers in each of its 25,000 fast food outlets and had opted for Java stations, not least because they were none too keen of having an NT engineer at each site. On the subject of the NC, McNealy was defensive, but noted that there has been an order of magnitude growth each year, so that it is now becoming very significant. Sun's marketing model for Java has evolved in the nearly four years it has been available. There was a time when it was necessary for licensees to give back to Sun enhancements that they had made, but this is no longer the case – only bug fixes need be shared. Companies can try development using Java at no cost: it is only when they start to ship a Java product that Sun gets any payment. He envisages a world where users are knowingly or unknowingly sitting in front of Java devices for much of the day, whether it is a computer, a phone, a television, or a car (although he would not admit to Sun being involved in any development for automobiles). Anybody not doing one of these thing must be asleep, dead or playing golf, he quipped. ®

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