McNealy: Sun To Focus On Webtone
Sun Microsystems CEO and Chairman Scott McNealy sparked more reaction from Gartner Symposium attendees in an hour-long question-and-answer session punctuated by potshots at rivals Intel, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.
Vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) paid a surprise visit to the Gartner Symposium Itxpo 2000 Tuesday, but his 20-minute talk appeared to leave most conference participants cold.
Sun Microsystems CEO and Chairman Scott McNealy sparked more reaction from attendees in an hour-long question-and-answer session punctuated by potshots at rivals Intel, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.
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Some participants said they had hoped Lieberman would address key online issues such as taxation and federal regulation of Internet privacy, but he only committed in a general way to a Gore-Lieberman hands-off position on the Web.
At the end of his address, Lieberman referred to one of the conference's central themes, the creation of "The Perfect Economy."
"You have all been so central to the creation of the perfect economy. You will continue to be central, more central than government," he said. "Hopefully we can continue to play a contextual role" in a strong economy.
Among other quips, McNealy said he would gladly put up $2 billion to help Carly Fiorina-- CEO of Hewlett-Packard and Monday's symposium keynote speaker--buy the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting and consulting firm, implying that the distraction from HP's core business would only help Sun's competitive position.
Similarly, McNealy noted, "I saw Intel is launching a camera (product). Go figure. It seems a little off from their core competency to me."
McNealy said Sun would hew to its core competencies by pushing the development of what he called the BFWTS, or "big freaking Webtone switch," Webtone being Sun-speak for the 21st century equivalent of a telephone's dial tone. The BFWTS, he said, would combine functions much the way complicated but integrated telecommunications switches do today, he said, combining in one product functions including messaging, storage and search capability.
McNealy took care to allay the concerns of some of the audience, however. "We're not competing with system integrators of major computer platforms," he said. "So you can choose the best integrator and get the best platform."
McNealy also noted that Sun planned to spend between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in the next year on research and development, much of it in pursuit of the BFWTS.
McNealy also made his political leanings plain, declaring himself a Bush-Cheney man. Given the chance to pose a question for Sen. Lieberman, the next speaker, he declined. However, he did take the chance to ask a question of Wednesday's scheduled keynote speaker, Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer. "Ask him, 'How's Janet?'" he said in reference to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.
Some veteran Gartner attendees agreed the symposium had moved subtly from technology to business strategy. Often the two converged, as in a presentation by Jackie Fenn, Gartner Group vice president and research fellow. Speaking on strategic technology planning, Fenn said businesses needed to be proactive, not reactive; not to wait for top management to adopt new technologies; to focus on high-impact technologies; to make investment decisions based on "analysis, not personalities"; to avoid redundancy; and to understand and manage risk.
Fenn urged CIOs and IT managers to campaign for technologies they believed in. "You will need to be evangelists," she said. "It's fine to be driven by business, but you will see potent technologies before others see them."