In the wake of Sun and Microsofts stunning settlement, Sun also announced the elevation of software chief Jonathan Schwartz to president and chief operating officer. In a conversation with eWEEKs Steve Gillmor, Schwartz talked about where the two companies are looking to collaborate.
Whats the deal as to Microsofts Java Virtual Machine (JVM)? Is it going to be made more compatible with your JVM?
We have more than 60 percent of the PC industry signed up to ship our Java Virtual Machine. What were now downloading more than 7 million copies a month of, and what the PC OEMs are shipping in the tens of millions, will be the definition of the Java runtime environment.
Microsoft will have the ability to continue carrying what they provide, but its obviously an end-of-life platform in their regard. Were going to continue mining that innovation and driving the business opportunities that surround that amount of volume for developers.
There are no plans to work with Microsoft in terms of interoperability between the two JVMs?
Thats not contemplated in the current agreement.
When [Microsoft CEO Steve] Ballmer
Obviously, were going to continue driving our message out to the marketplace. Were going to continue interoperating with the Microsoft servers that are behind those desktops. Simultaneously, Microsoft wants to be able to have their clients interoperate with our servers. And at the end of the day, in a Web services world, servers also need to talk to servers. So, the focal points in the near term are going to be around network identity and having our directory engines talking to one another.
Are you going to be using some sort of unifying protocol like LDAP for that conversation?
Its still TBD on that, but were certainly going to have our identity teams talking to one another about how we can advantage one anothers platforms in the marketplace. This really defines Solaris and Windows as being uniquely interoperable on volume servers, and we obviously have a close relationship with the Linux community. And were going to continue driving that innovation and interoperability out into the Linux world as well.
Ive seen some writers suggest that this is anti-Linux. To me, this is the single biggest accelerant in assuring the success of the most interoperable alternative to the Microsoft Windows PC, called the Java Desktop System (JDS). And that is all about working with the community to drive Linux and Java.
Right now, JDS is shipping only on Linux.
Absolutely. Thats what Wal-Marts shipping.
Connect the dots for me.
Well, if we make our desktop more interoperable with a Microsoft server or with another Microsoft client, it ought to make that desktop all the more appealing in the mass market. So, this is very much about advantaging Suns software efforts, which, as you know, spans Java on all the platforms on which Java runs—Windows, Linux and Solaris.
Walking Before Running
Youre talking server to client, client to server, and server to server. What about client to client?
Thats where we are going to have to put our heads together to think about how that happens. I think that intersects a lot of the discussions that you and I have been having over the past year—somewhat tenuously—but that really presents an opportunity. If you think about it, we are probably, second to Windows, the largest driver of volume technology on PCs on desktops.
I dont think its reached the level that Windows has on the desktop, but Java runs on hundreds of millions, close to half a billion PCs out there. For us to deliver technology to all those runtimes—remember those runtimes are also auto-updating—and potentially deliver some interoperability to the native Windows environment, thats a compelling opportunity.
Again, thats not right now on the road map. On the road map directly is ensuring we have great interoperability at the directory and identity layer, and then to go look at what we can do around the database layer as well.
When you refer to our conversations, you are referring to some events-based mechanism such as RSS?
I think that would be a fruitful area for the two of us to collaborate.
Have you gotten any indication that Microsoft has an interest in RSS?
A fundamental element of events-based communication is ultimately identity. Were walking before we run. This is obviously a new relationship. Were dating. But so far, were still holding hands and things look good, and as we move forward having set down a foundation, were going to continue to look for new and compelling ways to add value to our customer base.
To be honest, Steve, given that we have as much confidence as we have in creating this relationship, were going to look to our customers to give us insight and wisdom about how they would like us to better interoperate. Again, weve set the foundation for that interoperability to be identity, and where we go from there is going to both be a derivative of the creativity of Microsofts engineers and Suns as well as where the market tells us they want us to go push the R&D.
To me, were seeing a unification across the Java and .Net frameworks at a real-time architecture thats a superset of both.
Right now, were not talking about anything as grandiose as that. We are very much walking before we run.
How does your promotion augur the role of software in Suns system architecture?
I think it will probably play a much more active role in, not necessarily the technology evolution—I think thats been there since the creation of Sun Microsystems—[but] in the business modeling that is both how we price and how we can drive economics back to our stockholders. And if you want foreshadowing, you need only look as far as java.sun.com and notice that theres the word “free” at the very top of the page that talks about the hardware that you can get to run the software on.
Have the doubts about Sun as a software company been put to rest by your appointment as president?
That should be a confirmation of that. If there was ever a doubt that anyone has that Scott [McNealy] fails to understand the role and the value of software in a systems architecture, I think this should put all of those fears to rest.
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