It’s always fun when a rumour — or a rumour-based news story, which is often the same thing — gets poo-poohed by just about everyone, and then turns out to be true. It happened with eBay and Skype not that long ago, and now it’s Scott McNealy’s turn to put one over on The Register and Techdirt and all the other websites and news services that said he wasn’t going to step down as the company’s CEO. Well, he has. The rumours have been going around for awhile now, which is why plenty of people thought they likely weren’t true. They started with Caris & Co. analyst Mark Stahlman, who said in a report in March that since McNealy had more or less managed to right the sinking ship of Sun’s fortunes, he might step down.
More recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that it was likely to happen, but they didn’t have much in the way of timing or details, and so The Register made fun of them for it, and Techdirt likewise poured cold water on the idea, noting that it probably came from Stahlman just like the earlier rumours, and therefore wasn’t any more credible. Maybe Scott timed his departure to make some of those sources look stupid. I wouldn’t put it past him.
As McNealy himself said, “After me, things get boring.” Although he grew quieter as Sun’s stock melted over the past few years (although it has picked up recently), it was fun during the heyday of the Bill and Scott wars to hear what McNealy was going to come out with next. CNET has a great collection of some of his gems, including calling Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates “Ballmer and Butthead” and Windows NT “a giant hair ball.” And despite the dead ends and strategic mistakes, the vision that McNealy and Sun had of “the network is the computer” is a lot closer to being reality than anything Microsoft has come up with.
Now Gates has moved on to become a “chief evangelist” and Scott is doing so too. Does that mean Sun is going to get bought by Google, as some would like to think? Probably not. But expect them to get a whole lot closer. Jonathan Schwartz and Google’s Eric Schmidt are not only former colleagues, but they think alike on a lot of topics. Things could get interesting. The new CEO has a blog post up.