Sounding like a live advertisement for Sun Microsystems' Java programming language company Chairman Scott McNealy scarcely spoke of either the Internet or society at the Harvard Conference on Internet & Society .
When he wasn't touting the wonders of Java and its myriad applications, McNealy, was making thinly disguised and undisguised jabs at rival Microsoft. Sun has filed suit against Microsoft alleging that the software competitor violated terms of its Java licensing agreement.
Take a cup of coffee and add three drops of poison, McNealy said, "and what have you got? Windows."
In between similar barbs, which drew appreciative laughter from the crowd of academics and IT professionals, McNealy predicted that Java is fast becoming the language of choice in computers that operate vehicles, consumer appliances and smart cards, which store monetary values allowing consumers to buy goods without carrying around cash or credit cards.
Such uses of computers will become the network computer prototype of the future, McNealy said. Unlike Oracle chairman Larry Ellison who yesterday continued his ongoing -- though occasionally changing -- message about the likely spread of network computers, McNealy doesn't believe that those thin clients will become the desktop rage.
Instead, network computers which retrieve data and applications from servers as needed, will be widely used in kiosks, for points-of-sale terminals and as the means to operate increasingly smarter cellular telephones, set-top boxes and other consumer devices, McNealy said.
"The last place you will see it is on your desktop at work," McNealy said. "For some reason, CEOs enjoy giving you 10 million lines of fiddle-around code and watching you reboot or whatever."
McNealy was armed with a cellular phone and a desk phone with a built-in screen as examples. But he also had on a "Java ring," which he passed to spectators in the front row of the theater. The ring can be used to allow access to work sites or computers that traditionally has been password protected. The same Java-enabled technology also will find its way into health care, used in plastic identification bracelets given to hospital patients, McNealy said.
During a "conversation" with two Harvard University professors who asked him questions after his brief keynote remarks, McNealy strongly argued that there is only one Java programming language. And it belongs to Sun. Developers are welcome to contribute comments and thoughts regarding Java and its specifications, but Sun wants to keep the language pure.
"There's only one version of Java," McNealy said, "and that's the (Sun) compatible version."
Additional information about the Harvard Conference on Internet & Society, which concludes today, can be found at http//:www.cybercon98.harvard.edu/.