September 23, 2005 3:06 PM PDT

Sun president: PCs are so yesterday

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SAN JOSE, Calif.--Increasingly, the personal computer is a relic.

So asserted Jonathan Schwartz, president of server and software maker Sun Microsystems. Instead, what has become important are Web services on the Internet and the mobile phones most will use to access them, he argued at a Friday speech here at a meeting of the American India Foundation.

"The majority of the applications that will drive the next wave of innovation will be services, not applications that run on the desktop. The real innovation is occurring in the network and the network services," Schwartz said.

Sun, which sells the back-end infrastructure that powers such services, has promulgated variations of this message for years. But there's evidence the idea has some merit.

Schwartz points to the increasing wealth and power of companies, like eBay, Google, Yahoo and Amazon.com, that profit from free services available over the network. Among his audience, many more people said they'd rather have access to Internet services than their desktop computing applications. And Microsoft--the company with the biggest financial stake in the PC software business--has struggled to cope with the arrival of Web services.

The threat to PCs is twofold. Not only are services moving to the network, Schwartz said, but PCs won't be the way people use those services--particularly in poorer areas of the world that have risen higher up Sun's corporate priority list. Instead, that access will come through mobile phones.

"The majority of the world will first experience the Internet through their handset," Schwartz said.

When it comes to aiding developing regions' digital development, "Our collective generation believes the desktop PC is the most important thing to give to people. I don't buy that. The most important thing to give is access to the Internet."

Since Schwartz became Sun's president last year, the company has touted a campaign to bridge the digital divide, for example by promoting freely available open-source software such as OpenOffice.org. Schwartz doesn't pretend his company's motives are altruistic, though.

"Clearly it's in my company's best interest to have 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa join the network," Schwartz said.

But he does argue that there's more to be gained from pervasive network access than just a restoration of Sun's financial health and improvement to its stagnant stock price. The network also helps bring value to society, he said.

"The Internet has clearly become, as electricity and railroads did before it, a social utility," Schwartz said.

One case in point was visible with the online classified ad site Craigslist during the effort to cope with the Katrina hurricane that devastated states on the Gulf Coast. And he expects more with the approach of the next storm, Rita.

"The Internet--and one organization in particular called Craigslist--played an absolutely central role to recovery efforts," Schwartz said. "While the Federal Emergency Management Agency was stumbling and trying to figure out how to present its information, Craigslist was providing a connection vehicle for people who wanted to find their friends, their family members, their pets."

16 comments

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Not again.
I hope we don't have to go back through all the crap about thin clients again.

If I am not mistaken all of suns attempts to move everything to a thin client system have failed and people have lost interest.

A few things will move to a server based model but there will always be plenty of reasons (digital photos, personilization, file storage, gaming, development, software piracy etc.) that will keep the PC around for a long time.

This statement from Schwartz has a desperate feel to it.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Really?
Obviously Schwartz isnt an IT person. An IT person knows that for the vast majority of users the only way you will get their PC from them is to ply it from their cold dead fingers.
Posted by kenfretz (2 comments )
Link Flag
Web services and flying cars: a magical future
Yeah, it was going to be a big deal, Microsoft Office not on your PC but on the Web, all apps rented, not bought (all the better for the software companies).

Then reality hit, but apparently someone must have been in a coma.
Posted by M C (598 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ditto
Perfectly stated. The subscription model for music is a dud, take
that Napster, why would anyone want to "rent" software online? Pay
as you go only goes so far.
Posted by cjohn17 (268 comments )
Link Flag
Sun Barely Hanging On
This from a company barely hanging on? Oh yeah, he's plugged
into the market place. He should have said Microsoft is so
yesterday. More people would have noticed.
Posted by cjohn17 (268 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The High Cost Of Wireless Data Access
If Mr. Sunny wants to help the world (starting with me), then he needs to bring the cost of wireless data access down. Cell phone Internet access is outrageously expensive. And do I really want to have to keep track of how many bytes I accessed over the carrier's network, lest I experience sticker shock on my next bill? Oh, and how about the stupidity of having your cell phone device tied to your carrier? Let's see, I shell out $200 for a spiffy new cell phone, and then it becomes a worthless piece if junk if I switch carriers. Mr. Sunny can knock the PC all he wants. The reality is that with it, I have Internet acccess for $14.95 a month (all I can eat), T1 speed, a 19" monitor and full size keyboard, gigabytes of storage, and I can run whatever app I want. I am not locked in to just the web service apps the carrier decides to provide to me. And most importantly, I am not forced to junk my PC if I switch Internet providers.

Mr. Sunny, your future is the past. It is a few big oligarchs controlling what I can access, when I can access it, and how much I pay for it. If the oligarchs decide to hike prices by 15%, that is my tough luck. I am locked into their apps, so what choice do I have? You may like this paradigm, but I sure as hell don't, and I don't think the good people of sub-Saharan Africa will like it either. They won't like it anymore than they will like the terminator seeds that Monsanto wants to sell them to lock them in and take away their freedom.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your Macro Idiocy
Another paranoid that thinks the "man" is keeping them down.
The "big oligarchs" are not the main issue. The Wireless industry
in general is bogged down with state and local rules, ancient
federal laws that were written by industry idiots, and greedy
municipalities bent on tacking tax after tax.

Strip all that from the provider and open up true market place
competion then you'll see prices come down.

Peace, comrade.
Posted by cjohn17 (268 comments )
Link Flag
This man smokes funny tobacco...
... $14.95 for T1 speeds???? ROTFLMA

$14.95 and 56 kbps? typical...

$14.95 and DSL lite,? possibly but not likely....

But $14.95 and T1 is pure BS
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
The Sunset
Internet on handhelds? That's great, except the internet is hard enough to understand on a "real" computer, not to mention on a 2.5" screen. Sun wants to provide internet to subsaharan areas? That's great, except if there was a business there, someone would be there already. Believe me, what sets those regions apart from wealthier nations is NOT their lack of access to stock quotes and writing brief meeting notes (which is what handheld units are good for). If Sun wants to supply those areas with an infrastructure then why hasn't it done so already? Go to it.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Once upon a time &
Once upon a time there were many folks who tried to make all personal properties a relic. Still, the idea of having some personal property, including Personal Computer (personal library, personal toothbrush, etc.) is rather popular.
Posted by 207796398873175208235380528963 (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah right...
... coming from someone who can't earn from PCs... looks like sour graping to me...
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Reply Link Flag
PCs are here to stay
I am a graphic designer. I can imagine doing my work on anything but a PC. I am sure there are many other occupations that are the same way. The author is mistaken.
Posted by Stan Johnson (322 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What Service Will Edit my 100MB graphics file...
And why would I want to expose IP to the "web Services"?
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How about a 12GB video file?!?
A network PC and web-based services for editing 12GB video files? HAHAHAHAHA!

Right.. the PC is sooo yesterday... my eye. C'mon, Sun. Get a new idea.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
 

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