Sun's CEO cites OS as differentiator

Sun's CEO cites OS as differentiator

Jonathan Schwartz reiterates the importance of the operating system

Oracle's and Microsoft's moves to accommodate Linux show how important it is to have an operating system, said Sun Microsystems President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz, promoting Sun's own Solaris OS.

Asked about Microsoft's and Oracle's Linux deals while appearing at a Churchill Club dinner, Schwartz focused on the importance of an OS.

"It reminds everybody again how central OSes are to the evolution of the Internet," Schwartz said. "Every 10 years, it seems like everybody wants OSes to go away so we all dismiss them."

Microsoft on Thursday announced a deal with Novell to offer sales support for Suse Linux and co-develop technologies for running Suse and Linux together. Oracle last week announced it would offer support for Red Hat Linux , potentially eroding Red Hat's core revenues.

Oracle, Schwartz said, invested in Red Hat but then Red Hat bought JBoss, thus building a business that will erode Oracle's. This reminds the world how important OSes are, Schwartz said. He also chastised IBM and HP, saying they did not realize the criticality of an OS and instead focused on another vendor's Linux offering.

"We're seeing lots of competitive advantage now because we got [the Solaris OS]," Schwartz said.

Also during the evening, Schwartz noted Sun's tribulations with its grid computing business. The effort clashed with customers who wanted control over the hardware. For example, one customer wanted to build a chain link fence around the computers that would house its own software resources. Export controls also posed problems, since they apply to computing power, Schwartz said.

These accommodations were not workable under the utility model Sun had set up, according to Schwartz. "For most customers, the grid service is completely unacceptable. Just culturally, they couldn't get their way there," Schwartz said. Developers, however, like the service, Schwartz said.

"The one thing we learned from our grid service is there's no one hammer for all nails," Schwartz said. Sun's Project Black Box, meanwhile, is effectively a computing grid in a single shipping container, Schwartz said.

In other comments during the evening:

-- Schwartz panned thin clients as an end-all, be-all solution: "I just don't believe in thin clients. Right there, I said it." Even iPods are thick clients, he said.

-- Schwartz said that if Sun had an issue with board leaks like HP has had, the company would not have gone to the lengths to investigate them that HP undertook. The evening's host who questioned Schwartz was New York Times reporter John Markoff, who was a target of HP's board room leak investigation.

-- Dismissing an analyst recommendation that Sun lay off far more persons than the 4,000 to 5,000 planned, Schwartz said he is more focused on investing in employees rather than reducing their numbers. "We could become really profitable, really fast: Fire all 35,000 people," Schwartz joked, noting that this profitability would not last.

-- Sun is encouraged by the performance of Solaris on the Intel Woodcrest processor, Schwartz said. But he would not directly address whether Sun was in any negotiations with Intel to use its processors. "We're paying attention to trends in the marketplace and making sure we can build the most competitive products out there," he said.

-- Schwartz said it would be interesting to see Sun products running on the new Sony PlayStation.

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