Incoming Sun CEO Schwartz has a nice long ass-kissing blog entry up claiming that Scott McNealy is directly responsible for the creation of the millions of jobs associated with the Internet.
McNealy is a big-iron salesman who managed to ride the boom up, and should be given all the credit and blame for Java that Gosling can spare, but the Internet is built not on his pronouncements and hardware but on 30 years of work that happened before the mid-90s. The network Schwartz gives credit to McNealy for was already there. His famous line about “the network is the computer” was a description of fact, not a call to arms. It was already true when he said it, and the world of online business was already off and running.
McNealy’s true claim to fame these last 6 or 7 years is less attractive: He led a company with enviable market position and products to almost complete commercial irrelevance. It’s not easy to see how he could have avoided this — after all, Sun is synonymous with expensive and high-performance hardware no longer required in light of the advances in the “white box” world — but with the kind of war chest he ended the 20th century with, it seems like a fair bet he could have at least tried something else. Instead, he made Sun a target for spot-on jokes like this (image from ArsTechnica):