This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Sun's Network PC: Try, Try Again
Sep 08 1999 12:00 AM PDT

Will a return to mainframe computers and dumb terminals play in the Internet era? Sun (SUNW) Microsystems hopes so, which is why the company announced its network computer version 2.0. The media was all over the map on this story, presenting wildly conflicting opinions. Even basic facts were in dispute.

When Sun introduced its first network computer, the bare-bones, low-cost JavaStation, it sought to simplify administering large networks by centralizing computing on large servers - the kind that Sun sells. But almost nobody bought a JavaStation. The price of PCs had plunged below $1000. Besides, the JavaStation relied on applications written in the Java language, which was then slow and buggy.

Yesterday Sun introduced its 2.0 version, the Sun Ray. It's simpler and cheaper, and can run any applications, not just those written in Java.

John Markoff's story in the New York Times didn't go much beyond the press release. With a straight face, Markoff quoted Sun CEO Ed Zander citing performance goals so low that they would elicit a belly laugh from anyone who had worked on a dumb terminal.

The San Jose Mercury News' Ilan Greenberg talked to two analysts and got wildly divergent prognoses for Sun's second foray. Giga's Rob Enderle said, "It could actually reverse Microsoft (MSFT)'s [office software] market share ... This is clearly the most compelling technology that we've seen so far." David Wu of ABN AMRO Securities said flatly, "Very few corporations are going to buy this stuff."

Adding to the confusion, the Times and the Merc interviewed different Sun officials and reported different information on Sun Ray's price. Markoff said the purchase price would be $499, while Greenberg said it had not been set. The reporters also differed as to whether a deluxe lease option would or would not include the server computers.

Sun is usually more careful with the details of product announcements. One might wonder whether the Sun Ray 1 had been rushed out the door.

New Network Computer From Sun
New York Times

Sun's Un-PC
Mercury Center