What the Netscape/Sun/AOL deal might *really* mean

Nelson Minar (nelson@media.mit.edu)
Tue, 24 Nov 1998 15:52:57 -0500 (EST)

I don't have the stomach to read all of the Netscape deal coverage in
the news, but towards the end of the Lohr/Markoff article at
is an interesting speculation:

Still, America Online and Sun also have a longer-term
objective that promises to place them in more direct
conflict with Microsoft. For nearly a year, William J.
Raduchel, Sun's chief strategist, has been working
closely with America Online, Sun executives said.

A former economics professor who taught Scott McNealy,
Sun's chairman, at Harvard University, Raduchel has
focused on Sun's Internet programming technologies, the
Java programming language and the Jini networking
strategy, both of which are seen as a potential threat
to Microsoft's dominance.

Combining Sun's technology prowess with America Online's
powerful consumer brand, the Sun executives say, offers
the potential for an end-run around Microsoft's grip on
desktop computing. In its research laboratories, Sun has
been working on a stripped-down network computer -- a
simple information appliance that could cost as little
as $200 or given away as part of a subscription.

The concept is that the device could deliver America
Online's Internet media and electronic commerce services
to many homes that today shun the expense and difficulty
of using a personal computer. The appliance would be
mainly a receiver and screen, with most computing power
on central computers.

Sun's technological specialty is this kind of
centralized network computing. If the long-term America
Online-Sun vision ever materialized -- certainly a
three-to-five year bet, at the least -- it could give
both companies a boost and technological independence
from Microsoft.

Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company

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