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Apple, games top Sun head's agenda (2000)

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Sun Microsystems Inc. has two new focuses for its Java technology -- Apple Computer Inc. and the world of computer games, according to the company's chief.

In his keynote address here today to kick off the start of the fifth JavaOne conference, Sun Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Scott McNealy was joined on stage by two special guests -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Shoichiro Irimajiri, vice chairman of Sega Enterprises Ltd.

McNealy's two guests provided the main news in a rather downbeat keynote where the Sun head spent most of his time looking back at Java's five-year history, with, of course, a few of his trademark digs at bitter rival Microsoft Corp.

To huge applause, Apple's Jobs announced that his company is now "totally committed" to Sun's Java. Apple intends to bundle Java 2 platform, Standard Edition (J2SE) with every copy of the next major release of its Macintosh OS, version 10, due out later this year, Jobs said.

"We will offer the best Java platform on the planet right out of the box," Jobs said.

Both Jobs and Sun's McNealy admitted that the two companies hadn't worked closely together in the past.

"That's your fault," quipped McNealy.

"You were busy putting Java into light bulbs," Jobs replied.

"I know some of you (in the audience) have not been thrilled with Java on the Mac," Jobs said. "We've finally figured out how to work with each other."

At several points during his keynote address, McNealy mentioned the necessity for Java to be used more in the games and general entertainment market. "I'd like to see a JSR (Java specification request) for games; the Java API (application programming interface) is in the early stages," he said. A JSR is the first step in creating or altering a Java technology specification.

Sega's Irimajiri said that his company had experienced problems with Java in the past. "We tried to deploy Java and had some difficulty," he said.

Today, Irimajiri announced that Sega's Dreamcast console will be running Java. In September, in version 3 of Dreamcast, Sega will release a Web browser which is currently under development by Planetweb. The browser uses Sun's Personal Java, which will facilitate the playing of multiplayer games, Irimajiri added.

The Sega vice chairman also referred to yesterday's announcement with Motorola Inc. concerning offering games on cellular phones.

"We have already developed 10 games for the cell phone and will launch them next year," Irimajiri said. "You'll have Sonic gameplay on cell phones."

McNealy spent the bulk of today's speech re-emphasizing Java's strengths and providing some statistics on usage of the technology. Citing figures from market research company International Data Corp. (IDC), he said there are currently more than 2.5 million Java developers, and that number is expected to rise to 4 million by 2003. There were 20 million Java smart cards shipped last year, with 100 million due this year and 250 million the year after, he added.

So, why use Java? "The main reason is safety," McNealy said. "In some sense, Java has cured the common cold." If developers write in Java, they are likely to avoid most of the challenges in the market such as the recent spate of hacker attacks via viruses, he added. "Melissa and ILOVEYOU (viruses) don't need to happen," McNealy said.

He explained that he's been trying to convince the U.S. Defense Department to mandate Java in its systems to ensure their security.

Java has delivered on its "write once, run anywhere" promise, according to McNealy, as demonstrated by the wide range of devices the technology is now deployed on, including cell phones, set-top boxes, games machines, desktops, servers and smart cards. "Everything with a digital heartbeat," he said. "We have hundreds of millions of devices using Java; this year it will go to billions."

The Sun chief ended his speech with a demonstration of his golf expertise, showing off a computer game that melds the real world with the Internet. As McNealy swung a specially adapted golf club to hit a ball on stage, his movements were tracked by the game on the Net, which then rated him on his performance.