McNealy bashes Microsoft, embraces Apple

Sun and Apple promise to improve Java on Mac

Scott McNealy can always be counted on to make a few snide comments about Microsoft, and the 25,000 attendees at Sun Microsystems Inc.’s JavaOne conference weren’t disappointed.

“This whole Outlook thing is hard to resist,” said the Palo Alto, Calif. CEO, referring to the recent outbreak of the ILOVEYOU worm, which fed on security holes in Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail client.

McNealy delighted his audience at the fifth annual developers’ conference with a David Letterman-style top 10 list attacking Outlook. The jokes and one-liners included, “Look out, here comes Outlook,” “You got nailed,” and “Got data? Are you sure?”

The gags continued even when McNealy turned to more serious matters and introduced Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Both promised to work together to better incorporate Java technology into the Mac platform.

“I think you have not been thrilled with Java on the Mac,” Jobs said.

“That’s your fault,” McNealy quipped.

Jobs promised to put Java 2 Standard Edition on every copy of Mac OS X that Apple ships later this year. “We will offer the best Java platform on the planet right out of the box,” Jobs said.

But analysts are a bit leery.

“[Apple] has been completely out to lunch. It has missed the boat on Java efforts. So this marks a bit of new interest on Apple’s part,” said GartnerGroup Inc. researcher Mark Driver in Atlanta, Ga. “Apple, so far, has done a tremendously bad job of incorporating Java technology. I think if there ever was a platform that would have benefited from an earlier success of client-side Java, it clearly was Apple. The idea that you could do development around applications on an Apple the same way you could PCs, it would have really helped push the Macintosh into corporate environments.”

The JavaOne announcement may be a little too late, Driver said.

“I’m not overly optimistic on their ability to embrace the platform. Most IT developers care nothing about Apple.”

Rikki Kirzner, a director at IDC in Mountain View, Calif., is also unenthusiastic about the announcement. “The real story will come as a result of whether or not application developers will actually write to it,” she said. “I was a little annoyed that there weren’t any details provided. But that’s Steve Jobs doing what Steve does best – ‘I don’t announce anything in advance anymore.'”

Java is currently the number two development language in the world, and it will soon overtake Microsoft’s Visual Basic as the language of choice, Kirzner said.

Java has succeeded because it is safe, McNealy said during the keynote address. “In some sense, Java has cured the common cold. If you write proper Java you can avoid most if not all of the challenges people are facing out there.”

Kirzner agreed, but cautioned that Sun has to remain vigilant.

“Right now, without XML (Extensible Markup Language) and SOAP (Microsoft’s Simple Object Access Protocol), it’s a safe bet. It really is difficult to write viral software that penetrates it. Now that’s going to change with SOAP and XML implementations, because that’s the backdoor that allows those viruses to get in.”

Java can also scale to the biggest or the smallest of platforms, McNealy continued in his praise of Java. Lately, however, there have been concerns in relation to IBM, traditionally a major Java backer.

“IBM and Sun have a bit of a love-hate relationship,” analyst Driver said. “I have gotten tons of calls from clients who have read an article someplace, or saw a press release from IBM and have convinced themselves that IBM is dropping support for Java.”

But he said that these fears are unfounded. “There’s no way that IBM is walking away from Java at this point.”

The problems arose when IBM said it was not going with Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), Driver said. In an effort to allay fears, IBM has since announced it is a J2EE licensee.