Sun CEO talks about iPhone and Java and near-death experiences

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“We almost died,” Jonathan told me. He was referring, at that point, to Sun Microsystems, but he could be talking about himself (he talked to me about surviving a train wreck in the 1980s — that question was thanks to a reader here who pointed out that he talked about it on his blog but didn’t give many details).

We started out in the executive briefing center, where he gives us a quick tour before sitting down with me and Solaris CTO Tim Marsland in a conference room.

We talk about Java and the iPhone too. First, call out to Michael Gartenberg who points to John Markoff of the New York Times, who got this quote.

Markoff: “What about all those plugins that live within Safari now, like Flash or like Java or like JavaScript?”

Jobs: “Well, JavaScript’s built into the Phone. Sure.”

Markoff: “And what are you thinking about Flash and Java?”

Jobs: “Java’s not worth building in. Nobody uses Java anymore. It’s this big heavyweight ball and chain.”

Interesting to hear Schwartz’ side of the story — I ask him what his pitch to Steve Jobs is to get Java on the iPhone. He claims that Java is being downloaded 20 million times a month and is on about a billion cell phones with tons of apps. Claims Java is one of the most recognized brands in the world.

Here’s my side of the conversation.

0-4:00 getting tour of executive briefing center and chit chatting.
4:09: why are you feeling good about this point in Sun’s history?
6:13: what are the trends you think are important to pay attention to in 2007?
6:39: you had to bring Steve Jobs into this conversation, didn’t you?
7:36: I was at CES. We partied so you didn’t have to.
8:04: Talking about phones … talking about the iPhone, Apple/Steve Jobs new thing, it’s a closed box. They have been telling bloggers and journalists that they are not going to allow third-party software on it. It sounds like a smackdown to Java. If Steve Jobs was here right now, what would your pitch be giving him to opening that thing up?
11:53: He told reporters that ‘ah, I don’t want people building software for mobile phones because they’ll take down the West Coast of Cingular.’ That’s clearly not true because we have lots of phones with .NET and Java apps on them and Cingular seems to stay up for some reason.
12:35: A good example of this is in Seattle, when I lived there, I had a traffic app that I downloaded off of a site and put on my phone. That app was built by third-party. Not by Cingular. That’s the kind of innovation I want on my iPhone. It seems that Steve will force me to buy two phones.
15:03: the Blackbox is a shipping container … with an Ethernet jack on the side (laughs).
17:05: Have you sold some [of the Blackbox’s] yet?
17:44: I would think the government would buy some of those because if there’s a major disaster like Katrina…
18:05: So, tell me why Solaris is relevant.
20:35: Can you tell me a little bit about what Solaris does in the Web 2.0 space?
22:05: How does Solaris help you build multi-threaded apps where Windows and OSX don’t?
22:50: I was just at Intel and saw their new fab and saw they are building two and four core chips…
25:46: For Web 2.0 companies … they are really cost conscious. Sun has this reputation … (Discussion about how much Sun’s stuff costs and its reputation for being expensive).
29:00 Are you using Seagate drives? (Fun aside about new kind of advertising)
31:37: That’s the brilliance of your blogging — people can go there, leave a comment, and tell you what you’re doing wrong. (Turns to Tim) What kind of challenges get you up in the morning?
32:56: What is going to be surprising coming from Sun Microsystems? What is going to be your “iPhone?”
35:41: On your blog you had the ‘five things you don’t know about me’ post and you said you were in a train wreck and that profoundly changed your life. Can you tell me how it was profound?
37:10: What is it about leaders that an event like that causes them to lead?
39:20: Jonathan turned the conversation toward Sun’s near-death experience: “Sun had a life-changing experience. We almost died.”

Sorry about the abrupt end of the tape. The tape had a major glitch right toward the end of the interview. Aarrgghh, I hate that when it happens.