Sun Microsystems' CEO Scott McNealy was not shy in telling the crowd gathered for his keynote address Thursday afternoon where he believed the software and home-networking industries were going and interspersed these comments with digs at his nemesis, Microsoft's Bill Gates.
McNealy said that software, computer hardware and devices such as cellphones in the future will be given away for free or leased, and companies will make their profits on selling services.
"Do not go out and buy Windows. Go out and get Linux. It's free. The new model will be where you will lease everything that is not custom to you," he said, adding this could include such items as refrigerators and other white goods.
McNealy also called for the computer industry to focus its efforts on developing products that use Sun's Java and JINI operating systems so they can all communicate with each other and enable the creation of networks between such widely disparate products as alarm clocks and coffee machines.
"The computer industry is far behind in this. There is too much proprietary software," he said.
Despite the limitations of the current crop of products on the market, McNealy was certain that home networking will become a reality.
Sun is working with several companies -- including Bosch, Cisco, GTE, Sears and Whirlpool -- to create a program McNealy called the Connected Family. The program has each of these companies using their expertise in a certain area to help develop complete home-networking systems.
Alan Lacy, VP of services for Sears, said the retailer could use its home appliance installation and repair force to install the home networks, while Whirlpool and Bosch are building networking capability into their appliances.