In the decade to come, customers will no longer use their PCs as their main way of accessing the Internet, they will be tapping into the Net through their mobile phones, their fridges, their TVs and their cars. A wide range of Internet-related devices, many of them bearing the Jini logo, will surround them. This is part of Sun Microsystems' vision, according to the vendor's chief executive strategy officer Bill Raduchel (left). He heads up the vendor's planning and development efforts, including all mergers and acquisitions. Raduchel spoke to IDG's Clare Haney last week about the vendor's views on the Internet and how Sun's Java and Jini technologies are likely to develop.
IDG: Was Scott McNealy [Sun's chairman and CEO] serious when he said at the CeBIT show in March that one of his goals is to put Java in every car made in Germany?
Raduchel: He was serious. Java will end up in all cars. It'll cost tens of US dollars to connect to the Net in your car. That's why the Net will explode as the cost of access devices goes down.
Microsoft At Work and Novell's NEST [both failed embedded systems initiatives] tried to go down too low. Java leaves most of the existing software stack to the device.
The real different thing about Java is that it makes a layer you can put on many different operating systems.
Java and Jini will be in everything, but that doesn't mean that the user will ever know. In fact, 90 per cent of them will never know.
As we learn the economics of all devices below PCs, we discover that the PC model doesn't work very well. With the devices' very sophisticated engineering, it's not very easy to rip out one operating system and put in another.
What about criticisms of Java? Is Sun working on a slimmed-down version of the Java Virtual Machine for use in embedded systems?
Our PJava (personal), EJava (embedded, which is a subset of Pjava), and KJava (originally meant kernel) for use in the smallest devices, are all out in beta now.
Java has been criticised for being too big and for its performance. We're getting better on performance; with enhancements this year we'll largely eliminate the performance issue. Then we have to work on removing the perception about Java's performance, that may take longer.
What do you see happening to the PC model over the next few years?
The most important Net access device in 2005 will be the mobile phone, the PC will the fourth, fifth or sixth most common device.
Our Web tone idea is no different from the phone network - you have mobile phones, home phones, fax machines and modems, they all use the same network.
With Web tone, there will be lots of devices interacting with the Net. Perhaps, you'll use one to get e-mail notification, then go to another device to read your e-mail.
We have to find a way to make lot technology easier to use. It's just too expensive now. Windows support is too expensive; people are stymied by it.
Think about repairs. It costs a lot of money anywhere in the world to have someone drive out to your house to repair your machines. Most machines know when they're wearing out and could send a "please schedule a replacement part message" to their makers.
And Jini? Where does it fit in?
The true description of Jini is a spontaneous network with sets of Java programs.
Consumers will never know about Jini, all they'll see will be the logo. It's all about making it easy to create local networks. For example, your mobile phone belongs to 50 networks, it changes as you're moving along, when you're in a taxi, or if you're walking by your bank and want to do some banking. Jini eliminates the need for device drivers in the PC.
Jini networks are self-healing; they never establish a permanent connection. According to the manufacturers, Jini devices should be available by the end of next year.
What do you think will happen on January 1, 2000?
There will be a significant amount of hassle for people. It's a cold, not a heart attack. Small businesses will be hit, but lots of fixes are pretty trivial. We should have seen a lot of problems on January 1, 1999, but we saw nothing.
I don't want to downplay the issue but I can't believe the doom scenario. I know a top Web company that loves Y2K. It's planning to go and eat everyone's lunch; its competitors are spending millions of dollars on Y2K, while this company is spending millions on getting their rivals' businesses.
People talk about power plant switches failing, but switches don't look for a date. Electricity is electricity; it's not different after midnight. There will be a bunch of glitches. The thing we should be scared about is spreadsheets; people didn't follow the rules there.
Y2K won't be catastrophic. Restarting the machine will cure the vast majority of problems.
So, you'll be in the air then?
I have booked a flight for New Year's Day.