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Win2k will be greater disater than Y2k, claims McNealy

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Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun, dropped in to the IDC European IT Forum in Paris by satellite (again), but he did update his one-liners: his latest is that "W2K will be a greater disaster than Y2K". McNealy pointed out that conventional brokers who scorned online trading because the size of their client's deals were often an order of magnitude greater than those of E*Trade or Schwab would run into trouble when their clients died and their children put the accounts online elsewhere. There was no room for such complacency, he noted. "Have lunch or be lunch" was getting a bit tired, but "Those who snooze will lose" updated it. The situation concerning broadband was not as bad as was made out, McNealy claimed. Each month, enough fibre to encircle the world three times was being laid, despite around half the world's population dying without having made a telephone call. To McNealy Dialtone has become the Webtone, and he wants narrow band to be near-free, with broadband charged economically. So far as who was in charge was concerned, it was the Web. Microsoft was trying to be in charge, McNealy quipped, but the rest of the world wanted open, multi-vendor systems. It was an HTML world, not one dominated by MS Word; Java and not Visual Basic; and browsers, not Windows. Of the $3 billion of venture capital distributed in Silicon Valley in the last quarter, McNealy didn't think any of it was for packaged software. Pure software and marketing organisations were doomed, McNealy thought: what was needed was "clicks and bricks" - with the bricks apparently being Sun's hardware, or content. On the subject of nuclear power plants, McNealy was of the opinion that mere mortals should not be instructed how to operate them - and the same was true for PCs. After all, 40 per cent of AOL users only used AOL on their PCs, some 50 per cent of home PCs were languishing because the would-be users had forgotten how to use them - especially CTL-ALT-DEL. PCs were just too complex, the man from Sun said. So far as software was concerned, most should be near-free he suggested, which gave him the cue to announce that in the first week and a half of Star being available free from Sun, there had been more than 250,000 downloads. One of the downloaders was McNealy's father-in-law, who had been using MS Office (which McNealy said was why he still called him "father-in-law"). Star was "just" 65Mb, though - alright for some with fibre access, but tough for others. A portal version of Star will be available in the next few months, McNealy said, adding that it was not necessary to have 40 million lines of code to run a browser. McNealy had a new joke about Linux: there were more people developing with it than the entire population of the state of Washington. One of McNealy's envisaged uses for embedded devices was to give him control of any car driven by his son, so that it could be kept below 100 mph - and to know when his son had been downtown rather than in the library working, something he hoped would be recognised as great parenting rather than an invasion of privacy. Questioned about the small number of thin clients (about a million in 1998) compared with PCs (perhaps 100 million), McNealy noted that "it takes as long to unravel a hairball as to ravel it, and Windows had been around for 20 years. It would still be some time before PCs were back in the hobby clubs again. ®

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