Bechtolsheim: I wasn't at Sun when the crash happened. From the outsider's view, Sun probably reacted a little too slowly to the change in business fundamentally. So the company would have been better off at the time to downsize more quickly. But that was six years ago, so that's neither here nor there. The open-sourcing of Solaris is actually going very well. There have been over 5 million downloads to date. We don't actually know what people are doing with all these downloads. It's kind of fascinating to see people in Pakistan and India and China and all over the world downloading this code, and something interesting is about to happen here, I would think, and the same about Java of course. So perhaps the company should have opened up these systems sooner, but nobody's complaining about the fact that it's open now. And it certainly has received very positive feedback from developers and other people who want to make either extensions or just understand how this stuff is working.
InfoWorld: When you say positive feedback from developers, you're talking about Solaris and Java, or just Solaris?
Bechtolsheim: Well, I want to touch on the Solaris side. Java, of course, runs on all kinds of platforms, such as Solaris. But I'm not with the part of the company that's working on all the Java things, so I can't really speak to that.... Open-source software has a compelling advantage because the potential customers know that there's a difference in openness with open software than with any kind of closed software. And more and more governments and companies decide that that's the right thing to do.
InfoWorld: So you're in favor of the open-sourcing of Java?
Bechtolsheim: That was definitely the right thing to do.... Keep in mind that when Sun started, Berkeley Unix was essentially the first open-source operating system because you would get a copy of the source code just by sending a $100 check to Berkeley, which covered the cost of making a tape and sending it to you, right? In some sense, we should have kept that tradition all along, so the fact that Solaris was not always as open as it is today was basically a sort of mistake.
InfoWorld: So can Sun still make money selling hardware and services even though the software is now basically free in many instances?
Bechtolsheim: It's no different than Linux, right? Even though Linux itself is free, there's a cost for support and so on, and Solaris support actually, as far as that, is less expensive than a Red Hat subscription. So we are in fact competing with the Linux model.
InfoWorld: What are you most proud of in the 25 years of Sun, and what is your biggest disappointment?
Bechtolsheim: [There are] all the good memories certainly [of] the early days with the first Sun workstation, the first SPARCstation, UltraSPARC, and so on. All of these were major milestones that really propelled the company forward. And my personal involvement was by far the greatest with the SPARCstation series of products. Actually, really all the workstation products, but the SPARCstation really broke new grounds for the company in terms of just being a high-volume platform. One of the disappointments was that we didn't take advantage of the x86 architecture earlier. We should have done that in the 1990s certainly, not just a few years ago. But by the same token, there's ongoing innovation here, and it's not too late to re-enter that market.
InfoWorld: I keep thinking back to something like Open Look versus Motif. Do you think Sun has been a rebel sort of company?