Standalone devices will soon be obsolete and so consumers must "simply connect", warned Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystem's chairman and chief executive.
Punters at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas queued for several hours to listen to McNealy's keynote address in which he predicted that standalone devices will rapidly give way to a connected world because they simply cannot work together, let alone with human beings.
"The big challenge we all face is to make them connect and work," he said. "The only way we can do this is by getting them to speak the same language."
Pushing the company's own Java and Jini technologies McNealy's crystal ball predicted that Microsoft Windows CE would not win in the home networking battle. "There is no room for control, alt, delete buttons on all the things we want to connect," he joked.
McNealy stressed the importance of "reliability, simplicity and convenience" when connecting consumer devices and urged electronics giants to seriously consider the Linux operating system in their plans.
He said: "Don't go Windows. Linux is free, it's smaller, faster, better and has got more people working on it than the entire state of Washington."
McNealy believes more and more companies will adopt the Linux free model. "Things will go for free," he said. "Hardware, software, appliances, set top boxes, mobile phones - they'll all go for free in return for subscriptions, services and annual fees."
He believes this lease style model will enable suppliers to make products more customisable to consumers' needs.
"Airlines don't buy jet engines anymore, they buy power by the hour and the same will go for devices," McNealy evangalised. "American Airlines is in the service business, not in the business of buying jet engines."
In his closing remarks McNealy urged any companies providing a product or service to get on the Web before their competitors beat them to it. "The market is very Darwinian out there - it is changing quicker than you'd believe," he said.
However, he also added that in this scenario, to survive, "you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun all of the other hikers."
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