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Sun Readying Its Ray for Security

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sun CEO Scott McNealy is hoping people are fed up enough with viruses, security updates and computer crashes to consider his Sun Ray vision as an alternative.

As previously reported, Sun is expected to outline the thin client strategy this Friday. As a precursor, McNealy said Sun is working on disrupting the markets with an inexpensive subscription model

"I'm just throwing this out there, but why wouldn't we do something like charge $5 per Sun Ray per week? We are already offering CPU cycles by the hour and gigabyte storage by the month," McNealy said during Oracle's OpenWorld conference here.

With the sale of IBM's PC division, McNealy and others are sounding off about the future direction of enterprise and consumer computing.

The outspoken CEO also said Sun is working with 3G carriers and the major Wi-Fi ISPs, such as AT&T, MCI and Sprint, to design a thin client laptop version that uses public and subscription networks to access the same information as the wired ones.

"We are a natural wholesaler for this," McNealy said. "A long line carrier could charge customers $4 and offer the complete infrastructure, software and even support. We get the $1 to supply them with the network. They get $3 to cover their costs and still make money in the process.

Sun is also partnering with Lucent to provide Voice over IP capabilities to reduce the number of landline phones there are in the world.

"If you try this out at our corporate offices, you can take your Java card out of the machine and walk to another terminal and your phone call will follow you," McNealy said.

The benefit of Sun's thin-client strategy is that the low-cost, low-energy computers come without hard or floppy disk drives, CD-ROMs, or embedded software that can become corrupted by viruses or become obsolete, he continued.

The vision may be gaining momentum. Already more than 30,000 Sun employees roam from home to office to boardroom with only a smart card as their entry to a network-based desktop environment. McNealy said the U.S. Department of Defense has adopted a program to turn more than 80 percent of its desktops into Sun Ray environments by 2007.

McNealy said his Sun Ray vision is also better than most VPN network configurations. Because Sun Ray requires no administration at the desktop, administrators can manage up to 2,000 Sun Ray clients, and users access their session via a smart card instead of relying solely on a password.

"It took two or three people about two or three days to update all of our systems at a cost of about $60,000.

McNealy said the Sun Ray vision is also helpful in reducing headcount in offices and saving on energy costs, especially in developing nations.

Sun has been working hard to increase the visibility of its Sun Ray lineup. The company usually pairs the offering with its Java Desktop System as it looks to convert corporations and governments from their Windows ways.

McNealy also added that Sun's thin client also dovetails nicely with its utility architectures like N1 and its grid computing partnership with Oracle and others.

"We'll see grid computing and subscription services take hold in the same way that the provision of electrical power in this country has become a utility and the purchasing of cable television service a subscription," McNealy said.