Scott McNealy

Network Power Broker

Age: 47

Claim to fame: Co-founded Sun Microsystems Inc. in 1982, taking the CEO reins of the eventual global Unix powerhouse two years later. Dubbed "one of the most influential businessmen in America" by TV news magazine 60 Minutes. For more than a decade, has trumpeted Sun's slogan, "The network is the computer."

What he's doing now: Chairman and CEO of Sun

What's been the biggest technology influence on your life? Professionally, that has to be the Internet Protocol, which is the ultimate Web service. Without IP, and the work [Sun co-founder Bill] Joy did in bringing IP to the [Digital] VAX and then to Sun OS in the old days, the whole Web thing wouldn't have happened.

Scott McNealy, chairman and CEO of Sun
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Scott McNealy, chairman and CEO of Sun
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A lot of the Netscape stuff was originally developed at the University of Illinois on Sun machines. Most of the Web development and important Web services have been developed, in large part, based on IP on Sun - XML and Java and NFS.

How about personally? It's a tossup right now between the cell phone, the answering machine and e-mail at home.

What will be the next technology advance that radically changes the business landscape? Wireless is the next big thing. There's just no question about that. The problem with IP historically is that requirement to be tethered to a machine on the network. Wireless IP will be the huge breakthrough.

What technology advance will change our day-to-day lives? Availability. The big, freaking Web-tone switch has not been very reliable in the past 20 years, but as it gets more reliable, we'll lean on it the way we do the phone today. Of course you have to put in there all the security features, the privacy protections, the conditional access, the authentication. We'll have multifactor authentication, and connection to the network will always be there - assured, private, reliable. Then you can start doing a lot more things very comfortably.

I don't understand why I can't go to any hotel today, turn on Channel 50 or whatever on any TV, and with a wireless keyboard and fully functional Java browser have access to a high-speed network. Why can't every cable company and hotel hook me up, so I won't have to carry a PC around? I could be 100% productive from a hotel room without anything but an authentication card.

How will IT leadership change in the next 10 years? I see a lot more focus and a lot less vertical integration. More hosting of IT functions outside the organization and more focus on the information, on the customer registry. A lot less focus on running networks and data centers, or having to do all the integration work to assemble a big Web-tone switch. IT will get more critically focused on what's important and less focused on infrastructure and head count in the corporation. Providing services to your company's constituents - that's what will be important. IT should truly become the information managers, not the infrastructure managers.

What kind of role will computers play in business 10 years from now? Ubiquitous and invisible. Every product you use will be a computer. Already, your alarm clock is one. Your car is full of them. You'll be spending less and less time with computers you work on and more time with invisible ones. Software will be metal-wrapped (as in your car), not shrink-wrapped. When was the last time you upgraded the OS on your carburetor? These things just come as systems you use.

How will we interact with our computers in the future? I want my stuff to communicate to the network for me. I want my smart card to go out there and know I'm going to run out of gas in 50 miles and put it out for bid for the cheapest fuel. Then my car says, "Hey, here are your three options for gas: the closest, the fastest, the cheapest." That, to me, is how the Net should work. I want my house to delay running the dishwasher until a time of day when energy is cheaper, unless I override it.

I don't want to be on the Internet. I want to be golfing and playing with my boys.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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