MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Sun CEO and Chairman Scott McNealy on Wednesday evening condemned efforts to restrict foreign technologists from coming to Silicon Valley, arguing that the practice only deprives companies of brain power.
McNealy and the other three Sun co-founders, Andy Bechtolsheim, Bill Joy, and Vinod Khosla, reunited onstage at a Computer History Museum event. They waxed on about Sun's beginnings in 1982 and commented on where they believe the technology industry is headed. One audience member, making a comparison to the Beatles, even referred to Sun's founders as the "computing Fab Four."
The evening's sharpest comments were McNealy's protests against restrictions on bringing immigrants to American technology vendors. He noted that Bechtolsheim and Khosla are immigrants, as is Sun's Java guru James Gosling.
"We are just torturing ourselves by not letting all of the really smart people come to the valley," McNealy said. Khosla, McNealy added, has "hardly been a burden on our society," given the substantial taxes he has paid.
He also defended outsourcing and denied that if someone gains a job overseas, it means someone in the United States loses a job. "It just isn't true," he said. Technologists need to focus on innovation to improve opportunities, he argued.
McNealy also stressed the importance of getting everyone worldwide onto the Internet, which he referred to simply as "the network." Technology use in developing countries boosts the plight of peoples around the world, lessening the ignorance that breeds problems such as terrorism, he said.
"I think it's just going to be a safer and better world if we can get that done," McNealy said.
One audience member questioned whether Sun, whose fortunes have lessened since the dot-com bust early in the decade, could become a footnote in the computer industry like Silicon Graphics. But McNealy defended Sun's vitality, saying the company has $4.5 billion in the bank and has had 17 consecutive years of positive cash flow. The company is a major player in microprocessors with Sparc and operating systems with Solaris, he added.
Customers still will need servers and Sun is developing grid technology, he said. Sun also has its Java software to increase opportunities, McNealy said. He also touted Sun's record of innovation. "We have a patent portfolio that's off the charts," McNealy said.
McNealy is the only co-founder who has been with the company uninterrupted since 1982. Khosla left in 1985 to become a venture capitalist while Joy left in 2003, also for the venture capital industry. Bechtolsheim departed Sun in 1995 but rejoined the company in 2004, when Sun acquired Kealia, which also was founded by Bechtolsheim. He serves as Sun's chief architect and senior vice president in the company's Network Systems Group.
The nearly two-and-half-hour session, which attracted about 300 persons, featured various musings from the four founders and John Gage, who served as moderator for the event and is chief researcher and director of the Science Office at Sun. The founders noted Sun's humble beginnings as a startup seeking venture capital so it could sell Bechtolsheim's economical workstations running Joy's Berkeley Unix software. This was an unconventional combination at the time.