Sun's McNealy aims "downgrade" kit at Windows

A PC 'downgrade kit' which will will wipe out everything Microsoft except DOS and rebuild a system system on open Java standards was offered up by Sun Microsystems CEO ScotMcNealy at a major European Expo this week.

Scott McNealy, president and CEO of Sun Microsystems, landed his usual anti-Microsoft punches in a speech at CeBIT 97 and urged PC users to ditch Windows for a Java-based approach.

Later this year, Sun will release a "downgrade kit" for Windows PCs which will include a Java virtual machine and a set of office applications written in Java, McNealy said at CeBIT. "The downgrade kit will wipe out everything Microsoft except DOS and rebuild the system on open Java standards."

The kit will cost around US$99 and will be downloadable from the Internet, McNealy said.

McNealy touted Java as the answer to user simplicity, comparing Java-based applications to a telephone and Windows to "installing your own telephone switching network."

Microsoft has succeeded by getting parents to believe that children need to know how to operate a Windows PC in order to get ahead in life, McNealy says.

"We have been bludgeoned to death with the idea that our kids need to know how to work a Microsoft computer," McNealy says. "Do you want your kids to know how to install and operate a telephone switch?"

"Microsoft has a great strategy and it works, Bill doesn't have a 30-car garage for no reason," McNealy said of Microsoft chairman and CEO Gates. While Sun doesn't agree with Microsoft's "proprietary" approach, both companies' strategies will co-exist in the future, he said.

"The world is going to have both architectures, Java and Windows," he said. "Users who have enormous amounts of time will choose Windows and users who want ease-of-use will choose Java."

McNealy said that users shouldn't have to know how to operate computers and that Java-based applications will make information devices, NCs, set-top boxes and computers easy to use. In addition, he said that Java can "scale up to a mainframe and down to a smart card."

"No matter how much Microsoft squeezes the NetPC, they won't get it on a smart card," McNealy said.

While McNealy is clearly bullish on Java, a recent study by IDC found that less than 10% of companies worldwide are deploying Java applications today.

"That 10% of companies are using Java applications within its first 600 days of existence is phenomenal," McNealy said. Six hundred days ago Java had no class libraries, no tools and no virtual machines, he said.

McNealy predicts that 100% of companies will be deploying Java applications within the next two years and more programmers will be developing in Java than for Windows.

Sun didn't predict that Java, an "accidental empire," would catch on so quickly, McNealy said. "We got lucky with Java."

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