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McNealy: "There was a Lot of Dancing"

Sun CEO Talks About Microsoft

Sun Microsystem CEO Scott McNealy spoke recently with the San Francisco Chronicle on a number of topics, includings his company's burgeoning relationship with Microsoft's Steve Ballmer (pictured). Here is some of what he said...

Golf, Microsoft, and the Men's Room
After noting that he invited Steve Ballmer to play golf in the spring of 2003, an invitation the Microsoft CEO accepted, McNealy noted that "there was a lot of dancing for a full year. We met in the spring (of 2003). It was the beginning of April (2004), a year later, when we finally got it together."

"The funniest story came when Bill walked out to go to the restroom. We sent him down unescorted. And some poor Sun employee is walking his dog around the building and kind of had to do a triple take. 'Nah, that couldn't have been Bill Gates walking around here...(but)
there was never a leak. It was quite a big surprise to everybody. Everybody just wanted to make sure we got it right before we went out and went public with it. But it did take us a while to hammer through all of it."

On the Follow-Through from Golf
"The first conversation wasn't with Bill. It was me and Steve, and then we basically handed it off to Bill Gates and (Sun Chief Technology Officer) Greg Papadopoulos to work through the technical frameworks.

"Actually, the harder part was after we got the deal done, and then we had to actually sit down and start developing interoperability and what would be the framework and how would we protect our ability to share and their ability to protect. We both have very different strategies. Theirs is more successful, apparently. (Laughs.) At least for their shareholders.

"It actually took about six months of just kind of getting to know, getting to trust. I remember Bill and Greg had just met, and Greg comes back and reports, 'You know, both sides decided there are some pretty smart folks on the other side of the table here.' Which was a huge kind of breakthrough.

Once the technologists have respect for the other side, then things tend to move forward a lot more aggressively. They wouldn't put ridiculous ideas on the table, knowing the other side would figure it out."


On Drinking Beer with Ballmer
"Ballmer and I go way back.
We went to high school as crosstown rivals in the Detroit area. He actually stayed in my room when he came out to visit Harvard to see if he wanted to go there.

"We used to get together and drink Stroh's beer that was smuggled in from Detroit. When anybody came back from Detroit, they always brought a couple of cases of Stroh's beer to Boston because they just didn't have real beer out there. He and I went to business school together and we actually kind of just tabled our friendship when things got supercompetitive.

"So I've known Ballmer forever. We have lots of mutual friends. It wasn't like he was an unknown quantity to me at all."

On his Tradition of Microsoft Bashing
"It'sall theater, and I've been saying that for years. But you guys never report that part. You just report the quips. But that's good. All press is good, right?"

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McNealy: "There wasSun Microsystem CEO Scott McNealy spoke recently with the San Francisco Chronicle on a number of topics, includings his company's burgeoning relationship with Microsoft's Steve Ballmer (pictured). Here is some of what he said...

Golf, Microsoft, and the Men's Room
After noting that he invited Steve Ballmer to play golf in the spring of 2003, an invitation the Microsoft CEO accepted, McNealy noted that "there was a lot of dancing for a full year. We met in the spring (of 2003). It was the beginning of April (2004), a year later, when we finally got it together."

"The funniest story came when Bill walked out to go to the restroom. We sent him down unescorted. And some poor Sun employee is walking his dog around the building and kind of had to do a triple take. 'Nah, that couldn't have been Bill Gates walking around here...(but) there was never a leak. It was quite a big surprise to everybody. Everybody just wanted to make sure we got it right before we went out and went public with it. But it did take us a while to hammer through all of it."

On the Follow-Through from Golf
"The first conversation wasn't with Bill. It was me and Steve, and then we basically handed it off to Bill Gates and (Sun Chief Technology Officer) Greg Papadopoulos to work through the technical frameworks.

"Actually, the harder part was after we got the deal done, and then we had to actually sit down and start developing interoperability and what would be the framework and how would we protect our ability to share and their ability to protect. We both have very different strategies. Theirs is more successful, apparently. (Laughs.) At least for their shareholders.

"It actually took about six months of just kind of getting to know, getting to trust. I remember Bill and Greg had just met, and Greg comes back and reports, 'You know, both sides decided there are some pretty smart folks on the other side of the table here.' Which was a huge kind of breakthrough.

Once the technologists have respect for the other side, then things tend to move forward a lot more aggressively. They wouldn't put ridiculous ideas on the table, knowing the other side would figure it out."

On Drinking Beer with Ballmer
"Ballmer and I go way back. We went to high school as crosstown rivals in the Detroit area. He actually stayed in my room when he came out to visit Harvard to see if he wanted to go there.

"We used to get together and drink Stroh's beer that was smuggled in from Detroit. When anybody came back from Detroit, they always brought a couple of cases of Stroh's beer to Boston because they just didn't have real beer out there. He and I went to business school together and we actually kind of just tabled our friendship when things got supercompetitive.

"So I've known Ballmer forever. We have lots of mutual friends. It wasn't like he was an unknown quantity to me at all."

On his Tradition of Microsoft Bashing
"It'sall theater, and I've been saying that for years. But you guys never report that part. You just report the quips. But that's good. All press is good, right?"

a Lot of Dancing"

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