Under The Sun

Thanks to all the news about Microsoft, a future of all-Internet technology has swamped magazines and TV lately, but for Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy, ideas like those are nothing new.

Back in 1982, when he and three compatriots first started the now-megacorporation Sun Micro-systems Inc., Scott McNealy, then 27, borrowed $15,000 in start-up capital from his father. Originally in charge of manufacturing for the budding business, McNealy didn't know a thing about high-tech.

A lot has changed since then. These days, McNealy is easily recognized as a visionary in the high-tech industry, and Sun Microsystems has earned a reputation as a leading provider of heavy-duty, technologically sophisticated computers known as workstations (used by, for example, engineers in sophisticated design work) and servers that use the UNIX operating system, generally considered more reliable than Microsoft's own Operating system. Sun is also the market leader in setting up systems for Internet companies.

With the U.S. Department of Justice's recent antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, McNealy, Sun's Chairman and CEO, was recently catapulted into living rooms nationwide as the most outspoken leader of a loose coalition of companies (including AOL) that provide alternatives to the Microsoft way of computing. McNealy has long promoted a concept that is just now catching on, thanks to the growth of the Internet: "The network is the computer." Instead of the usual complex PC with all the processing power and applications it might ever need on its hard drive, individuals could rent applications on demand over the Net and leave the challenge of system maintenance to the provider, who would have the best technical expertise.

We caught up with McNealy recently and asked for his thoughts on Microsoft, his company's secrets to success and the future of computing.

Scott S. Smith writes about business issues for a variety of publications and Web sites including Retail Pharmacy News and Office.com.

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Under The Sun.

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