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JDJ Exclusive: Scott McNealy's 2004 Predictions

Scott McNealy on network computing, virus attacks, and software licensing in 2004

 "Network computing is at a tipping point, as the race to connect everything of value is driving widespread adoption of innovations like Java technology, and hundreds of millions, and soon billions, of devices get on the network and need to share information securely and reliably."

With new technologies like radio frequency identification (RFID), many tedious, time-consuming tasks will disappear from our daily routine. Instead of waiting in line 30 minutes to check out at the supermarket, we'll just push the cart past a scanner and out the door, and we'll get a bill for the groceries at the end of the month.

Technology like N1 - designed to automate management, virtualization, and provisioning in the data center - will break down the traditional barriers of cost and complexity, driving far greater return on IT investments than ever before. The adoption of grid computing will grow by leaps and bounds as IT professionals seek ways to get serious computing power from low cost components.

Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy

For over a decade we've said "the network is the computer," and that has never been more true than it is today. The world has embraced a vision of network computing based on industry standards and open interfaces. Every country on the planet, every industry, and hundreds of millions of consumers are enjoying the benefits of the Java lifestyle. It's all about write once, run anywhere, and it couldn't be any simpler as mobile phones, PDAs, gaming consoles, cars, and even that bag of potato chips in the supermarket become part of a network that will eventually connect trillions of things.

2004 is going to be a very dynamic year, with all kinds of innovation happening in network computing. And I'm sure I'll see you all on the network...

Scott McNealy Delivering Comdex Keynote Address
(Photo Copyright SYS-CON Media)

2004 Predictions
1.  Everyone and everything with a digital, electrical, or biological heartbeat, and even inert objects, will continue to be connected to the network in growing numbers. Nearly half a billion Java Cards have shipped so far. Entire countries such as Belgium and Taiwan are issuing them to every citizen to enable universal, secure, single sign-on access to the network. Java Card technology is revolutionizing authentication and access to health care services, banking, and other applications and services on the network.

2.  2004 just may be the year when a virus or some other kind of attack causes a network outage on a global scale that could do some real damage to the economy. Sobig-F, Blaster, and other worms and viruses did huge damage out there in 2003, as ATMs, airlines, and railroads were forced to "reboot." The days are over when a general purpose operating system is secure and reliable enough for these kinds of applications. The smart folks are going to take 2003 as a wake-up call, and in 2004 we'll see even more enthusiasm for Java technology and its widely recognized security model.

3.  The world is still going to keep a tight hold on its purse strings, and every dollar will be hard earned. There's no magic pill that's going to bring about an economic recovery. For the tech sector, it's going to take a complete rethinking of IT investments in terms of competitive advantage, operating and maintenance costs, and total cost of ownership.

Plenty of companies are already following this path, and will continue to invest in scaling out their IT networks by leveraging the economics of industry-standard x86 computing, where Solaris x86, Linux, and open source alternatives offer up a pretty compelling story. At the same time, there'll be a renewed focus on scaling up, leveraging highly available 64-bit Unix systems for demanding government, enterprise, and service provider environments, as companies dial-up IT investments to keep ahead of the competition.

4.  Software licensing and deployment models will be radically simplified. 2003 was the year we saw a bunch of companies finally get the service provider model right. Companies like, eBay, and Google are in the software business, but they don't sell their software, they let you use it or rent it. You're going to see a lot more activity in this space in 2004.

You're also going to see a big upset to the dominant software players in the marketplace, with game-changing innovations like the Sun Java Enterprise System and Sun Java Desktop System. The Java Enterprise System is just $100 per employee per year. China is adopting the Java Desktop System for the entire country - in a deal that could eventually reach a half-billion desktops. That's big news.

5.  The typical data center out there is like a fingerprint - no two are the same. They're all built out of hundreds of hardware and software parts and integrated onsite by an army of high-priced consultants. This model is going to fall apart as enterprise IT folks are under increasing pressure to deploy new applications and services quickly and cheaply. They're going to look instead to purchase complete systems, proven designs, tested infrastructure, and higher levels of integration through R&D, all done on the IT vendor's nickel instead of the customer's.

More Stories By Scott McNealy

Mr. McNealy is a Founder of Sun and has served as Chairman of the Board of Directors, President and Chief Executive Officer since July 2002, as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer from April 1999 to June 2002, as Chairman of the Board of Directors, President and Chief Executive Officer from December 1984 to April 1999, as President and Chief Operating Officer from February 1984 to December 1984 and as Vice President of Operations from February 1982 to February 1984. Mr. McNealy has served as a director of the Company since the incorporation of the Company in February 1982.

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Most Recent Comments
Tim 01/20/04 09:30:49 AM EST

"It''s all about write once, run anywhere".
yeah right. I''m a java developer and its more write once, test everywhere.

sam 01/14/04 01:46:25 PM EST

Microsoft and Windows are on the brink of extinction. The more and more MS pulls java out of its domain, the more and more it will get isolated and that is exactly the paradigm of reverse phsycology that SUN is playing here.

It is no longer the internet that matters, it is what you can do with it via JAVA that matters. Without JAVA Microsoft nor its windows OS will not survive.

Neither MS or Windows can handle the pervasiveness of computing without rebooting every push/pull transaction.

Not... 01/12/04 11:34:33 AM EST

I predict Java will struggle on the desk top and stay about the same on the server for the next 2 years. There is nothing I see other than better IDE''s from Sun, Borland, & Oracle to promote it''s growth. But that will not help it stay in any Windows environment. I wonder what happens when MS digs in with more .net in it''s client side office products. It will boil down to who will want to use Java in a Windows network. If it wasn''t for the internet, MS would have probly rid java out of its domain all together leaving it for older Unix systems that aren''t retired yet. Internet development may be Java''s only life saver.

Kris 01/12/04 12:49:09 AM EST

Yea, but what about microsoft and the MS OS?

Owen Densmore 01/11/04 07:30:56 PM EST

I''d love Java to have impact on the desktop. Unfortunately, that''s not going to happen at Sun. Where would it make the most sense? My bet: Apple! Why? Apple would love to see more desktop applications that would run happily on the Mac as well as else where (Linux, Sun, Windows).

So the big picture evolves: Java Desktop/Applications == Apple, Java Server/Services == Sun.

Zippy 01/09/04 04:20:07 PM EST

Make the wires go away. In as much your are in the business of helping "make the wires" go away (wireless), then I think your heading in the right direction. The next revolution isn''t about the computer ... it''s about the connection. The system and it''s OS are now just a layer to build upon. They need to be cheap, simple & connected. Eventually many homes will have both a media server & and data server. The media/entertainment server will access, store and play movies/tv/radio/music/photos. The data server will store your documents. You''ll have multiple laptop/table computers hooked into your wireless home network to control and access these two servers. Tivo is the intial example of the media/entertainment server. All these devices will have access to broadband through your cable modem wirelessly.

The media server needs to be bullet proof ... it can''t run MS buggy bloated software. It can''t be proporietary because many manufacturers will build these things. Linus is king here.

One big problem that we have is all of the millions of unsecure windows 98 system hooked to the net that are easy pickens for virus writers to create major network havoc.

Suns problem is that it was created to sell specialized hardward. Unix was the OS they happened to put on it. It was the Hardware that made McNeely rich, not UNIX.

Now that Linux can run on cheap and powerful Pentium boxes .. who needs sun? Sure you need someone to coordinate it all ... that is what IBM does. So Sun has become a defacto standards committee for Java ... that is not a business.

Some idiot will buy Sun to get at the customer base ala Compac & DEC.

Vamsee Kanakala 01/09/04 03:13:11 PM EST

Ha Ha. Go after Bill with what? Java Desktop running on Oracle? You got to be kidding. Leave the going after Bill to Linux. It will just happen. And I just hope Oracle and Java do the great things they do even better!

Chet West 01/09/04 12:34:22 PM EST

Lets get real here. Sun will keep dropping (as will everyone else) and end up having to merge with someone to stay alive. I predict that Oracle gives up on PeopleSoft so it can buy Sun. Then Larry and Scott can really go after Bill.

Keith Cowan 01/09/04 11:51:34 AM EST

Nothing earthshaking here. It is too bad Java was not a success. That would have counterbalanced MS more. I see more proliferation of disparate technologies as continuing owing to the "heat-seeking" nature of the industry and its players. "Let me count the ways" of doing nearly anything in IT!

Sharon Holloway 01/09/04 10:53:04 AM EST

yikes, he is way off on #5. Company''s can not afford to start all over from scratch, that would cost far too much & the legacy code that works is far to risky to replace day one. What we will see is a huge movement to modernize legacy applications with tools from software makers like IBM, Microsoft, & niche players. IBM has a product called HATS that will take a legacy application & turn it into a Java application with little to know Java skills needed. That is the type of change you will see in 2004 because company''s can''t afford to rewrite & it is much more affordable to modernize to keep the years of excellent logic in the underlying code. His dream would be like bulldozing every house down & building a new one from scratch.

Dan Clamage 01/09/04 09:05:29 AM EST

Just Scott''s opportunity to make oblique slams against MS Windows operating systems. Most Java is run under operating systems. The embedded stuff is growing but not on a level of scale Scott would have you believe. The Socialist nations in Europe probably love the Java card, but freedom-loving Americans will see it as an attempt by the gov''t to control yet another aspect of their lives.

Dan O'Mara 01/09/04 08:18:54 AM EST

Wow Scooter, how visionary for 1990 or so.
My prediction: either Fujitsu buys you out or your stockholders hold you in the regard that DEC bagholders fondly esteem Bob Palmer (or both).

JavaLover 01/09/04 04:15:47 AM EST

It is true that Scott is not an independent consultant so we cannot expect an unbiased view. On the other hand, I am quite certain that he is steering Sun in the direction he believes the future will go and not in the opposite direction. A company like Sun can go in quite a number of different directions. So this is a possible vision - usually wildly optimistic, but it is certainly more attractive than saying "A single software company will own and control everything that happens in the software world, everything will remain essentially the same, but you will need new computers to keep it running. Whoever dares develop software outside of this framework will be branded a Communist/Terrorist and taken to court ... brrr"

JohnCougar 01/09/04 03:32:18 AM EST

Some of them sound like Scott is plugging Sun and Java, rather than making realistic, unbiased predictions. I agree with 3 and 5.
2 may or may not be right, can''t say.
I disagree with 1 and 4. Smart Cards may be accepted in Europe and some parts of SE Asia, but the reach is *nowhere* near as wide as is required to validate his statements.
4 seems like just an attempt to sell Sun's systems.

Raga 01/09/04 02:15:46 AM EST

A good revolutionary vision of things to come from the Scott a true unconventional thought leader!

JFL 01/08/04 11:59:33 PM EST

Predictions? Or merely an advertisement for SUN/Java. I might agree with his comments but surely Scott could have spent more time researching trends and putting together some meaningful real predictions rather than just beating the Java drum.

W.P.W 01/08/04 09:08:54 PM EST

and the number one prediction:
1. Java will be released to the Open Source Community.