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McNealy woos India Inc with Sun's Java
Priya Ganapati in Mumbai | March 21, 2003 19:25 IST
The power breakfast with Scott McNealy, chief executive officer, Sun Microsystems had many of Mumbai's business leaders converge at the Hotel Oberoi on Friday.
However, missing among those tucking away into the baked beans, muffins and fresh fruit juices was the star of the show: Scott McNealy himself.
McNealy chose to walk in nearly thirty minutes later after the scheduled breakfast meet, having had his own with his team in his hotel suite. But the CEO of the $13.6 billion Sun Microsystems made sure that he delivered the right cup of Java blend to those who had turned out to listen to his vision of network computing.
Sun's mission as put forth by him: To solve complex network computing problems for government, enterprises and service providers.
McNealy's arsenal has just one potent weapon -- Java. And a faithful accessory in the form of a cell phone.
Explaining the potential of Java, he said, "I always wonder why they don't email your cell phone bills so that you can get it on your cell phone and all you have to do is press a button on your phone that says yes. Your bill will be debited and yeah, you cannot make another call till you press yes."
Java enabled cell phones are the flavour of the month with Sun and McNealy. After all, they have just had one of the largest mobile operators in Spain order over 60 million Java phones to be bought over the next few years.
"Last year we shipped 100 million Java enabled cellphones. If you talk about the interface between banking and technology then these phones are the ultimate ATM. They can't spew real money but what they can spew is electronic money and if your cell phone is connected to software vending machines, like in Japan, they can do a transaction for you and buy you a soft drink," McNealy said adding, "Your cell phone is your wallet. Think of anything in your wallet and your cell phone could replace it."
McNealy who is on his first visit to India came to Mumbai after a day in Delhi where he met with the minister of information technology, the finance minister and key industry leaders.
At his first meeting of the day in Mumbai, he shared the podium with K V Kamath, chairman, ICICI bank. Kamath delivered the keynote address that talked about the newly emerging inter link between banking and technology.
"Anytime, anywhere, anyway customer convenience is the way to go. Moving ahead from 24 by 7 and 8 am to 8 pm branch service, customers now want 365 days service and there is no reason why they cannot have it. Technology had redefined traditional concepts, role of banks and the business process," Kamath said.
Among Indian banks, ICICI has become one of the frontrunners in adopting technology that could lower transaction costs for the bank and at the same time, provide increased convenience and services to the customer.
ICICI bank has seen its deposit customer base grow from 1.6 million customers in March 2001 to 4.11 million customers in February 2003. Its base of net banking customers has growth at 63 per cent for the same period and ATM transactions have doubled from 1 million in March 2001 to 4 million in February 2003.
Citing the example of ICICI, McNealy said that to be successful companies need to react faster in real time than spend their time on predicting which way the world will move. And a strong technology base can help companies react in real time better.
Advocating the cause of network computing, McNealy said that despite the perception that after the dotcom bust business models of companies that use the Internet are unlikely to succeed, network based business models will be successful.
"There are many people who say that the Net is not happening. But if you look at the data then more and more number of people are getting online everyday and getting those people into their online directory will become important for the companies," he said.
Apart from the Java enabled phones, McNealy also talked about Java smart cards (283 million of which are already out there) and smart chips. These chips could be pasted on wallets, cell phones or cars and could be used to make e-payments, track individuals etc.
"Our vision is to have everything and everybody connected to the network," McNealy said.
However, no talk of McNealy is complete without a few swipes at arch rivals, Microsoft and IBM and at the session in Mumbai, he did deliver a few choice punches at his rivals.
In Delhi, McNealy only made a single announcement of a 'donation' of software worth $300 million to students, researchers and universities.
In contrast, during Gates' visit, he announced a slew of gifts for India that included a $400-million cheque to fight AIDS in India, an a promise to add 400 more engineers to its Hyderabad development centre.
"I say, beware of corporations bearing gifts. As buyers you have to take charge and make the choice to take control away from the monopolies who could lock you in with their technologies," warned McNealy.
Later he said, "None of the devices that I have talked about here are in the future. The smart cards, chips, java phones are all there. When people say they haven't heard of it I ask them, 'Where have you been? Maybe you have been talking to Microsoft and IBM. Talk to us and we will tell you all about this'."
Self effacing, quiet and low-profile, McNealy's visit was a complete contrast to that of Gates, who had hundreds of students and even passerbys throng outside the halls where he gave his speeches.
Where Gates announced gifts by the dozen, McNealy preferred to talk about the possibilities in the future and concentrate on Sun's product.
"I am not a great visionary. I am just someone who is good at spotting the new things in the market and talking about it," McNealy told the business leaders.