McNealy Hints At Desktop Linux Strategy During Keynote

Advises observers to stay tuned for future Sun plans

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After Sun Microsystems' unveiling of the next LX50 server running both Linux and Sun Solaris operating systems Monday, Sun Chairman, CEO and President Scott McNealy's keynote at the LinuxWorld Conference Tuesday might have been anticlimactic. Except for one thing: McNealy's announcement during his speech of Sun's future plans for a desktop Linux strategy.

Actually, it could hardly be called an announcement, with McNealy only hinting at the strategy in his keynote address at the Moscone Center here when he mentioned how Linux on the client grew 30 percent over the past year vs. minus 5 percent growth in the Linux on the server market.

McNealy told attendees to "stay tuned" for Sun announcements to push Linux onto the client and applauded the open-source community for "doing things the attorney general couldn't accomplish" to rival Microsoft in desktop operating systems.

"It's a wonderful dent to make in the convicted monopoly," McNealy said, referring to the software giant.

At the QandA following his keynote, McNealy and other executives avoided the question of Sun's future Linux-on-the-client strategy.

"Come to the Sun Network show next month," McNealy told observers at the QandA, when asked repeatedly if Sun was planning to unveil a Linux desktop product. Sun is launching the Sun Network show here on Sept. 18.

During that QandA, Sun Executive Vice President of Software Jonathan Schwartz added fuel to the fire, citing the same statistics McNealy referred to in his keynote proving that Linux on the client is the fastest-growing Linux software on the market.

Innuendo aside, the idea of Sun creating a desktop Linux strategy to take on Microsoft was the most compelling Sun topic at McNealy's keynote. He spent most of it reiterating Sun product announcements from Monday, and stressing Sun's commitment to Linux. The latter is something that seems surprising from a man who less than a year ago claimed that Linux and Solaris, Sun's proprietary, Unix-based operating system, were the same thing.

McNealy kicked off his keynote by resurrecting his infamous "top 10" lists, with Tuesday's topic, "Top 10 Signs You're At An Open-Source Conference." The list included items taking potshots at Sun competitors Hewlett-Packard, IBM and of course, McNealy's favorite target, Microsoft.

One item on the list was, "Carly and Sam are booth babes," taking aim at HP CEO Carly Fiorina and IBM CEO Sam Palmisano. It should be noted that despite McNealy's allusions to Sun's Linux dominance, both HP and IBM jumped on the Linux bandwagon long before Sun introduced its Linux plans earlier this year.

Another, "bonus" item on the list claimed that "Microsoft's booth is hard to find and always closed," poking fun at what McNealy's oft-mentioned references to the proprietary nature of Microsoft systems. This is the first year that Microsoft, with its Windows OS positioned as Linux's most formidable enemy on the desktop, is exhibiting at the LinuxWorld show.

McNealy also assured the open-source supporters in attendance that Sun is committed to supporting not just the Linux community, but to continue to support open-source efforts in general thorough Sun-led open-source initiatives such as, NetBeans and JXTA.

He added that Sun has learned lessons from the open-source community and has improved its own efforts to steer a technology, namely Java, through the Java Community Process, the panel of vendors Sun oversees the move to drive Java standards in the industry.

"Your input has made our process even better," said McNealy.

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