San Francisco - Sun Microsystems Chairman Scott McNealy, who had been the company's CEO for 22 years until last month, issued a call to developers Friday to make a difference in bridging the worldwide digital divide.
During a morning keynote presentation and a subsequent press conference, McNealy was upbeat about his new responsibilities and expressed relief about stepping down as CEO. He turned over the reins to Jonathan Schwartz, who had been Sun's COO. Rumors had floated in recent weeks that McNealy would step aside in response to gripes about the company's poor financial performance of late.
"I'm thrilled not to have to be CEO anymore," he said. "That was a temporary thing that I took on about 22 years ago."
Although he injected a lot of humor into his presentation, including reading a "top 10" list of reasons why he was glad to exit the job, McNealy's talk had a serious side as well.
Three out of four persons in the world are not on the Internet, he said. "It's an enormous tragedy. It's also a huge economic opportunity," McNealy said. The industry must eliminate this divide through development of Java-enabled technologies, he said.
To this end, developers may need to work a little later in the night "because you're kind of cursed with the opportunity" to change the world, said McNealy.
"We're going to solve [this divide] through Web services, through thin clients, through network computing, and we're going to do that without torching the planet," McNealy said.
McNealy stressed the critical mass of Java, which he said adds 3 million users a week.
"Java has become a top technology brand, with basically among IT folks 100 percent brand recognition," McNealy said.
He endorsed plans to offer Java via open source. This would enable sharing of the technology, which would lower the barrier to entry and exit and leverage the contributions of the community at-large.
Asked about how Sun will solve issues of maintaining platform compatibility under an open source format, McNealy responded, "You'll have to go check with Jonathan on that."
Commenting on his successor, McNealy described Schwartz as the perfect candidate to take Sun to the next level. But McNealy remains committed to the company, taking on tasks such as working with the federal government as chairman of the Sun Federal division, meeting with large Sun customers such as AT&T, and overseeing partnerships in Japan.
"I don't think there's anything else I’d rather be doing than making Sun successful," he said.
McNealy, though, also offered commentary of the lighthearted variety, which has been a trademark of his presentations over many years. "I actually found advantages to not being CEO," said, before rattling off his Top 10 list.