IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Get a grip 'hairball,' and other McNealyisms

Scott McNealy, who said Monday he would step aside as Sun Microsystems Inc.'s chief executive, has long stood out in an industry of impenetrable jargon for his sharp barbs and catchy slogans.
/ Source: Reuters

Scott McNealy, who said Monday he would step aside as Sun Microsystems Inc.'s chief executive, has long stood out in an industry of impenetrable jargon for his sharp barbs and catchy slogans.

McNealy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems with three partners 24 years ago, will remain as chairman of the legendary computer maker, which is based in Santa Clara, California.

"The Network is the Computer" he began repeating endlessly in the late 1980s, a decade before the World Wide Web became mainstream and displaced the standalone computer as the way many people find information.

During the dot-com era, McNealy also became famous as the bad boy Silicon Valley CEO who never missed a chance to take a jab at a competitor's product or technology name by making derisive puns:

The following is a compilation of several of his best:

  • His attacks on Microsoft Corp. and its chairman, Bill Gates, were relentless, calling Microsoft Windows software a "giant hairball" and contrasting it with Sun's efforts to work more openly with other industry competitors.
  • He labeled Outlook, the most world's popular e-mail management program for business, as "Lookout," referring to security vulnerabilities. Active Directory, the software underlying Outlook, was "Captive Directory" in his parlance.
  • He parodied Microsoft's dot-NET software architecture as "Not Yet" as he argued in favor of Sun's own Java architecture. He became Silicon Valley's most outspoken advocate of the Justice Department's antitrust case against Microsoft.
  • No competitor was spared. Intel Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s decade-long effort to develop a rival microprocessor to Sun's SPARC chip, known as Itanium, McNealy dubbed "Itanic," a play on the sunken ocean liner. IBM's rival AIX computers called Regatta he termed "Regretta."
  • In 2001, during the depths of the technology spending crash that following the dot-com boom, McNealy quipped: "People are feeling really wounded because they bought stocks at 100 times revenues, and they can't understand why their life's savings is gone," he said. "People, get a grip! Look at what you did! 'Hey, that truck hit me!' Well, you play in the freeway, you are going to get hit by a truck."
  • Chastened — somewhat — by the precipitous fall in Sun's stock following the bursting of the dot-com bubble, McNealy sought to downplay a revenue shortfall in April, 2003 by saying: "We want credit for not blaming SARS or the war." Travel-related delays caused at the time by the war in Iraq, or by SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) had hurt some technology businesses with multinational operations.