McNealy says Sun is still strong

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s CEO sent the message that despite a low stock price and questions about customer concerns, Sun is still achieving positive cash flow -- indeed has money in the bank -- and is bringing to market new technologies to compete against its biggest rivals.

McNealy was on stage here during the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo conference, and was joined by Gartner vice presidents Daryl Plummer and Laura McClellan.

McNealy said that Sun has gained more market share vs. IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. in the last nine months than in any other nine-month period in history.

The Gartner Inc. analysts asked McNealy what are the biggest differences between Sun's Sun One infrastructure and rival Microsoft's .Net stack.

McNealy pointed to Microsoft Corp.'s integrated approach as opposed to Sun's "integrateable" approach as perhaps the most significant difference.

"We'll sell the whole thing," McNealy said, adding that Sun's offering includes not just the underlying hardware and operating system but also the application server stack, services, support, and technologies such as clustering.

Furthermore, if companies want to take out Sun's application server and use BEA WebLogic in its stead, they can do that, too, and the same goes for portals and other pieces of the infrastructure.

"You get best of breed as opposed to inbred," he joked, in his usual Microsoft bashing.

Microsoft, on the other hand, sells the whole picture, but customers cannot plug in other vendor's technologies, such as a new browser, without damaging the operating system, McNealy said.

Sun offers a more robust 64-bit architecture to run the software on, while Microsoft is still in 32-bit realm, he continued.

The ever colorful McNealy kept the jokes coming, sometimes aimed at Microsoft, other times at himself. In saying that the integrateable approach is good enough, he commented, "It's like my haircut: good enough. It may not be pretty, but it's good enough."

Plummer asked McNealy about Linux, and whether the open-source OS will pose a threat to Sun's own Linux in the data center.

"The fastest growing part of Linux is the desktop. We see a big opportunity there," McNealy said, explaining that Sun is building an open-source desktop offering that includes StarOffice as well as Sun One mail and calendar software.

"We think we can come in at half the cost of the Windows client," McNealy said.

Another big initiative for Sun is the N1 technology, which McNealy said Sun is bringing forward in a three-pronged strategy that includes virtualization, provisioning, and automatic monitoring.

McLellan asked McNealy where Sun will be in five years.

"Everything is going to be connected to the Internet. We're desperately focused on providing the best infrastructure for connecting all these devices so [customers] don't have to," McNealy answered.

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