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Unix Expo: Zander outlines future of network computer

And servers, software, storage debut

By Rebecca Sykes

October  1996
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New York -- Maybe it was the free cappuccino and latte, but the Sun Microsystems Inc. booth at Unix Expo Plus was packed with attendees after a rousing Java-centric speech by Ed Zander, president of Sun Microsystems Computer Corp.

In the first of several keynotes at the conference, Zander outlined the future of the network computer as it relates to Java and called upon conference attendees not to heed the warnings that Windows NT will usurp Unix in the network market.

"Unix is alive and well," Zander told the crowd, citing the staying power of the operating system in an industry that changes flavors every year. "We think there is a heck of a lot of headway and runway left in the Unix marketplace."

Zander took more than a few pokes at Microsoft Corp. CEO Bill Gates, who tried to boost confidence in NT and Unix coexistence during his keynote the following day. Zander said Microsoft continues to load the desktop with unnecessary software, driving up the cost of business computing. Citing a Gartner Group Inc. report, he said the average cost of operating a PC in the business space is $13,000 per year, a cost that Sun's network computing model can reduce by 70 percent through "Webtop" thin clients sucking applications off a server.

"The best thing to happen to Sun in the industry was Windows 95," Zander said. "It made people stop and ask, `Do I really need that?'"

Some show attendees answered yes. Rick Strom, director of system software marketing for Data General Corp. in Westborough, MA, said while there is a place for the thin client model in some businesses such as banks, Webtops will not displace Microsoft software on the PC.

"You start taking things away from people on `the desktop,' and they are not going to be very happy," Strom said. "I don't think [the Webtop is] going to be widely adopted, but there is a place for it."

Zander outlined three driving forces behind Sun's network-centric computing model:

In a final appeal to his Unix audience, Zander challenged developers to continue writing for Unix, taking advantage of its scalability, security, and manageability over NT.


New product roundup
In case you missed the noteworthy product introductions at Unix Expo, we give you the gist:

--John Robinson, Network World and Rebecca Sykes, IDG News Service, Boston Bureau

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