Suns Jonathan Schwartz Takes on Longhorn

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2003-11-18

Suns Jonathan Schwartz Takes on Longhorn

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun Microsystems Inc.s executive vice president of software, took time after his quarterly Town Hall in San Francisco to sit down with eWEEK Contributing Editor Steve Gillmor in a conversation about Microsoft Corp.s Longhorn Wave and the market challenges and opportunities it may present for Sun.

SG: Notes and Groove creator Ray Ozzie says hes very excited about Longhorn – particularly its validation of Groove innovations in peer-to-peer and XML now baked in to the operating system.

Schwartz: Thats a dangerous thing though. The fact that theyre baking those things into the OS means that they dont need Rays product.

SG: He sees the opportunity to build apps on top of that infrastructure.

Schwartz: No company has ever monetized Microsofts infrastructure in the history of Microsoft.

SG: Is Longhorns managed code environment its most strategic attribute?

Schwartz: Java clearly presents an environment architected for networked delivery of code. Unlike the Windows environment, our assumption Day One was that we needed to build a network platform -- not a single destination platform -- one that assumed that code couldnt be malicious, that everyone would in fact have malicious intent – and therefore would have to be protected not only from others, but from themselves.

SG: Youre saying Longhorn represents Windows getting to where you already are?

Schwartz: I think Longhorn represents an attempt to rearchitect Windows to achieve the same attributes that we have with Java. By the time they deliver, the danger they may face is that theyve improved upon a problem space for which the marketplace has already identified alternate solutions.

SG: Microsofts view would be that, at the end of the day, four or five years from now, theyll get to where they want to go, and theyll have ownership of a very strong, well-fed group of developers. How do you mediate this transition?

Schwartz: The market for mobile data services is $80 billion this year. This platform has grown faster in terms of unit volume and dollar market opportunity. By the time Microsoft delivers Longhorn after their next slip in 2007, the market will have overtaken this view that the PC is the center of the world with: mobile devices, automobile sensors, vending machines, point-of-sale systems, airline seat-backs, you name it. In addition, we will have evolved our desktop to the point where it has become another secure, neutral, portable application space.

Next page: Schwartz handicaps next-gen killer apps.

ZIFFPAGE TITLESchwartz Handicaps Next

-gen Killer Apps">

SG: What are the desktop killer apps, not in 5, but 2 years, that will seed that market, and force a migration off Office?

Schwartz: The killer app for this desktop is price, because China and India and El Salvador and Brazil cant afford a hundred dollars per desktop from Microsoft.

SG: For developers?

Schwartz: The killer app for developers is called volume. The fact of a hundred fifty million of these [phones] going up by leaps and bounds means thats where they can make money. Developers dont hunt for brilliant technology -- their instincts tell them to go to where the volume is, because thats where they can monetize part of that $80 billion.

The most interesting new content Ive seen for the Internet: I was in Zurich and some guy walked up to me with his phone and said "Youre flying to Barbados tonight – heres the weather," and I clicked on it and saw an animated satellite map of the weather. Well, he makes 25 cents every time somebody looks at the satellite map of any weather across the planet. And hes on target to have hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. Thats where developers are going.

SG: But you told this Town Hall today that developers care about whats going on on their PCs, not on that mobile platform.

Schwartz: They will write using their PCs, they will deploy on a multitude of devices. This phone is an inefficient input mechanism. They will write the code on that [laptop]. Does that mean a new killer app will emerge on the desktop? To be blunt, I doubt it. I think the killer app is called the browser—and much as though Microsoft wants to push the browser out of the way to merge Web services into Office…

SG: The rich client has no appeal? There were 7,000 people at the PDC who were pretty jazzed about what was going on.

Schwartz: The rich client has a lot of appeal, but I think $80 billion has more appeal. Developers follow the money. Developers dont follow the guidebook that Microsoft publishes for them.

SG: Im not disagreeing with you about the size of the marketplace. But for people who are managing information, [the phone] becomes a huge bottleneck -- your fingers are too big, the screens too small. Its going to come back to the PC.

Schwartz: It will, but the PC will be one of many. Look, I dont disagree with you. For most things I do want a computer, I dont want to use that device [indicates his phone].

SG: How do you combat the Longhorn vision in a time frame thats going to make some difference?

Schwartz: Its called "Tiger." J2SE 1.5 will deliver lightning performance on that desktop. Weve already provided a rich client called Java, but Microsoft wasnt so interested in helping us with our deployment. So weve done our own now – weve signed up over half of the PC industry to ship our J2SE. And as we fold 1.5 seamlessly integrated into Mozilla, that will give us not only an optimized Web services execution environment on the client, it will give us a beautiful portability story onto a much cheaper desktop called the Java Desktop.

What are the killer apps two years from now? I will be blunt: I have no clue. I could not have predicted four years ago that you could put a camera on the back of a phone [holds up Nokia 3650]. I went on vacation and, just because it was so easy to get to, went click, click, click – took pictures everywhere and emailed them back to my father right there. My assumption initially was that I wanted that clamshell model because Im going to type all the time. Well, I dont. I make phone calls with it, and I then I take pictures with it.

SG: You also have a PR department to manage your documents…

Schwartz: I do. Thats why using me as a prognosticator of the future is dangerous.

SG: Youre the software architect of the company.

Schwartz: I dont draw those priorities. I draw those priorities by spending time with customers and finding out what they want.

Next page: Building a better buggy whip.

Building a Better Buggy


SG: Gates has not exactly gone broke estimating the appeal of technologies like the components of Longhorn – for example the ability to write in three lines of code what took a VB developer a thousand lines of code three years ago. Or take the bunch of peer-to-peer technologies integrated in WinFS.

Schwartz: JXTA has been incorporated into the Java standard and will be incorporated into the Java Desktop this spring. Its a natural evolution of that simple collaboration environment, where peer-to-peer could be used to transport new versions of documents. Curtis Sasaki [vice president of engineering, desktop solutions] is going to drive those priorities based on what customers tell us, not because I come in and say I have a vision of what is interesting that could be delivered. We dont run the company that way. I run the company based on what its going to take to close [the sale with] the Indian Ministry of IT.

SG: Its not just customers, its also the channel; Its ISVs saying, "This is what were going to sell to those people, and were competing against the VB/Visual Studio developer juggernaut."

Schwartz: Developers go to developer conferences because they want to learn about hot technology. But they deploy whats practical and what they can monetize.

SG: Right now theres some controversy about Longhorn around XSD being baked into Office, but is being deprecated in favor of a new schema structure for WinFS.

Schwartz: No one should be surprised that Microsoft wants to take the standards that emerge and bring them in and try to make them proprietary. Along with Boeing, we took our file format and gave it to Oasis, so were pretty confident that we have an alternative that customers find appealing.

SG: But so what. If Microsoft goes off and bakes its stuff into 100 million desktops…

Schwartz: Id love to see it happen. I dont think theyll have a hundred million by the time they ship Longhorn. And although theyve had wonderful developer conferences… Theyve had a fantastic SmartPhone for a long time. We outshipped them about a 150,000 to 1, and were going to outship them 300,000 to 1 and a million to one. It isnt the exclusive view of a technology that defines a market opportunity – its a combination of customers who are interested, developers who want to make money, carriers that want to deploy it.

I dont look at Longhorn and say "Oh, my god, theyve architected a better automobile." I look at them and say "Youre trying to improve on a buggy whip." If youre just another end node on the network, what are you going to deliver to it? Office productivity is just a feature. Were over it, done with that. The real issue is: what are you going to do with peer-to-peer streaming of video?

Heres the canonical example of what the world will look like: Two years from now, the 2006 Olympics, youre going to have teenagers in the audience with 30-frame broadcast capability in their phones. Is there going to be anybody there with a PC? Do you think this will have an impact on the planet? I do, because our kids are going to sitting at home with their PCs watching three-dimensional representations of the Olympics. Is that likely? Not a doubt in my mind. So whats the killer app on that device? Communications.

Name me a software business last year that was $6 billion. Its tough to do – database, maybe. And this year, ring tones will be $8-10 billion. Maybe an enterprise app is worth that kind of money. All of the high value systems going forward are going to be consumer systems.

SG: But what youre really talking about is a convergence of enterprise and consumer apps.

Schwartz: You as an enterprise consumer are so much less valuable to a carrier than an 18 year-old who chews gum, wears rhinestones and wants to buy 5 ring tones a week.

SG: Once the technology becomes pervasive, the value of time in a business context will overtake that market.

Schwartz: Perhaps. We made a critical infrastructure acquisition about 6 months ago – Pixo – a provisioning engine to deliver bits. Ring tones, games, enterprise apps – who cares?

Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum

Rocket Fuel