AW: You recently acquired InfraSearch, a peer-to-peer technology best known for its use in file-sharing systems such as Napster. How do you see the P-to-P field developing?
McNealy: The technology under development by InfraSearch is a fully distributed, peer-to-peer search engine that has the ability to return richer and more timely content on the Internet. We already have a P-to-P research project called JXTA, and this acquisition should strengthen and accelerate that. I'm a total believer that peer-to-peer is going to change the way we work and play. It's going to change the balance of power between consumers, service providers, and businesses. This is radical stuff. Keep in mind, though, that not every application lends itself to a peer-to-peer model. Many will continue to use the traditional server back end.

AW: When do you see your vision of a ubiquitous Net becoming a daily reality for a majority of executives in the U.S. and Europe and what will that be like?
 You can get Internet access in most airports and business-class hotels today. Cars will be Web browsers with wheels. In fact, Detroit sees online services as a bigger revenue generator than the cars themselves. Then there's all the mobile phones, pagers, and PDAs out there. The Net is nearly ubiquitous now, and all the different points of access have the potential to make our lives much easier.

Here's an example: Say I get a message telling me my next meeting has been delayed. A smart Web service would recognize from my online calendar that the delay makes it impossible for me to make my dinner reservation, so it would auto-matically tap into my online reservations service and change the reservation for me. But let's say it finds the restaurant can't accommodate me at a later time. Well, this is a smart service. It finds another restaurant - similar in location, style, and price - and makes a new reservation. Then it updates my calendar and notifies me via my pager. That's not just smart, it's incredibly handy.

AW: Will we still have laptops in 10 years? What will be the biggest surprises?
McNealy: Actually, I don’t have a laptop today, but I understand that some people are still lugging those things around. The big surprise will be the disappearance of the Internet — though it will probably happen so gradually no one will really notice. The Net will still be here, of course. It will just become invisible. You won’t think about it any more than you think about water, electricity, or telephone service today. The Net will be a utility you use when you need it.

McNealy on Management

Here’s what Sun’s chairman and CEO says about managing in a high-tech world.

Recruiting People: “People want to change the world, make it a better place to live. Offer them the chance to do that, and you’ll attract bright, dedicated people.”
Retaining People: “We like to give our people some rope and let them venture out a bit. We only yank on the rope when absolutely necessary.”
Decision-Making: “Good decisions depend on good data. Too often we think we understand the situation, when in fact we don’t have the right data.”
Business Pet Peeves: “I try to look at business from a customer viewpoint, so any defect in a product or service or process becomes a pet peeve. I also hate finger-pointing. If a customer has a problem, I don’t want [employees blaming each other]. I want them to work together to solve it.”