There’s talent a-plenty in the local IT industry, says expatriate and Sun exec Andy Lark, and the US market has opportunities to match.
New Zealanders are popular in Silicon Valley, Lark says, with their can-do attitude and funny accents. “We’re kind of viewed as cute and unique and different,” he says. “It goes down great.”
Cultural differences should be noted, however. Kiwis can sometimes be a little too “brash and blunt” for their own good, Lark says. “You’ve got to watch yourself.”
Lark is a local boy made good. He grew up in Ellerslie, Auckland, but today his title is vice-president of global marketing and communications, reporting to CEO Scott McNealy.
Lark visited New Zealand last week as a member of the Silicon Valley Beachhead advisory board, meeting local companies looking to gain a toehold in the enormous US market. He’s positive about the abilities of local companies, and says there are “tremendous opportunities” for those prepared to push into offshore markets.
Lark has simple advice for budding IT executives: “Get out there, get going,” he says. “New Zealand is not the market, New Zealand is the launch pad.
“There are tremendous opportunities for New Zealand companies. I see so much talent in New Zealand.”
There are tremendous opportunities for larger companies too, Lark says — such as Sun Microsystems. The company recently released the Java Desktop System, its Linux OS and StarOffice suite bundle aimed at disrupting Microsoft’s vice-like grip over corporate desktops.
Microsoft has made mistakes, Lark says, and Sun aims to capitalise on them.
“There is no question that right now there is an extraordinary opportunity on the desktop,” he says. “Microsoft has given us the opportunity on a platter.”
The combination of Microsoft’s “outrageous” licensing regime and its “appalling” digital rights management support provide the opportunity, says Lark. He also slams Redmond’s track record on security, which he calls “the big thing on the top of every CIO’s list”.
“Only Microsoft, the deliverer of the most insecure desktop platform on the planet, could make the claim that their office suite will be more secure.”
Despite that, Lark doesn’t expect the Java Desktop System to bump Windows and Office from corporate PCs overnight.
“There’s going to be a long time before you see Linux on a lot of desktops. The market opportunity right now is not going to be mainstream users. It’s not even going to be mainstream companies.”
Currently, the Linux/StarOffice combo will be of most appeal to companies with clearly defined desktop requirements and tools, he says, particularly those who don’t want to pay for Microsoft’s Software Assurance licensing.
The Sun desktop is designed for those companies to deploy Linux with a minimum of fuss and disruption, he says. “We took some of the complexity and the challenges out of Linux and bundled all of the productivity software you would expect.”
Both companies have a few tricks up their sleeves. Microsoft has started releasing information about the next version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn. In New Zealand, Lark was demonstrating Project Looking Glass, a 3D user interface that he expects Sun to ship on forthcoming versions of its desktop systems.
Plenty of companies have tried and failed to take desktop market share from Microsoft, but Lark is optimistic that the industry will welcome alternatives. “The very nature of the industry has changed,” he says. “There used to be a time when people could sit back and forecast with some certainty what was going to happen next, but that’s all changed.
“I’ve been in the industry a long time and it’s more competitive than I’ve ever seen it.”