McNealy: Sun will not change

Acknowledging that skepticism about Sun Microsystems Inc. is “at an all-time high,” the company’s top executive brushed off threats to Sun’s business posed by industry-standard hardware and software and told financial analysts Monday that Sun will continue to thrive.

“I know what you guys are thinking: ‘He can’t be looking forward to this meeting,'” Scott McNealy, Sun’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, said at the start of Sun’s financial analyst conference here. “I have to say that skepticism is at an all-time high.”

Some financial and industry analysts have questioned Sun’s ability to recover from the economic downturn and remain a major player in the server business. In particular, they have criticized Sun for focusing too narrowly on its own UltraSPARC chips and Solaris operating system while competitors more enthusiastically embraced systems running Linux and Intel Corp. processors.

McNealy insisted that Sun is planning for the future and will thrive in the next 20 years. He said it doesn’t need to follow rivals such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. by embracing a business model that includes focusing on services and Microsoft Corp. software.

“A lot of people are looking for us to go follow the herd, but we’ve had chances to fail in the past” and have pulled through, he said. “All along the way, we have chosen some rather unique paths.”

McNealy toned down his trademark comic attack on rivals, addressing what many analysts see as very serious challenges for Sun. Though he used a more sedate tone than usual, his message that Sun will not change and likes being different came through loud and clear.