Thin clients, not PCs will ‘bridge digital divide’

Sun Microsystems Inc. expects that technologies like its JavaFX Script scripting language, and JavaFX Mobile software for mobile devices will help bridge the digital divide.

“We think that the cell phone is the primary way folks will access the Internet for the first time,” Scott McNealy, the company’s co-founder and chairman, told reporters in Bangalore during a conference call Wednesday.

Sun previewed JavaFX Script, a Java scripting language for creating content and applications, at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco this week. JavaFX applications will run on desktop browsers and JavaFX Mobile, which was also previewed at JavaOne. The integrated software for mobile phones will lower costs of phones, Sun said.

The digital divide will not get solved with mainframes and PCs, but with thin client computing, software-as-a-service, large centralized grids, Java-enabled phones, and open-source software and microprocessor technology, and Sun is well-placed in these areas, McNealy said.

Focusing on bridging the digital divide can be profitable, according to McNealy. The roll out of services by telecommunications services companies, Internet service providers (ISPs), and cable operators, and digital divide projects by governments can translate into a market opportunities for Sun’s business in IT infrastructure, he said.

McNealy, who is in India next week, plans to meet with Indian government officials, third-party developers and system integrators in a bid to drum up support for its open-source software and for, a global online education project that was spun out of Sun and is community developed and supported.

“We are talking to the schools, government, and some of the big systems integrators in India about localizing the content for the local languages in India,” said McNealy, who is a founding partner of the Curriki project.

Sun spun off its Global Education & Learning Community (GELC) last year as an independent, non-profit organization to focus on building a repository of curriculum materials and to create an online community for this repository. The organization changed its name to Curriki last year.

The aim of the Curriki project is to offer a reference implementation that can be modified to meet local requirements such as local certification standards, McNealy said.

Curriki also plans to offer an online browser-based curriculum and a testing architecture for students to test themselves on the curriculum, he added. The site, which went live in December, currently has 3,000 posted items and about 35,000 registered contributors and users.

“Our biggest challenge right now is raising money from ministries of education, and from other organizations and individuals who want to see this free and open source content get developed and enhanced,” McNealy said

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