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By | Simon Sharwood 25th May 2016 05:02

Former Sun CEO Scott McNealy has data on 1/14th of humanity

He wants it for 1/7th, plus a proper thin client to access it with and for Silicon Valley to come up with some new ideas

Former Sun CEO Scott McNealy has data on one in 14 humans, wants to get that down to one in seven, but at heart what he really wants is the thin client that Oracle killed when it acquired Sun.

McNealy gathered the data in his role as co-founder and executive chairman of Wayin, a software-as-a-service outfit that aims to give advertisers a chance of getting their promotions in front of interested eyeballs more often.

Advertisers, McNealy told The Register, are a market it's been hard to serve with traditional business applications because advertising intelligence needs to be gathered at hitherto-impossible scale.

“My Dad was a vice president of marketing for North America,” McNealy said. “I would sit at his knee and read everything in his briefcase. He would say something like 'Those ads have great recall' and I would ask 'Did it sell any cars'?”

Plenty of advertisers still can't answer that question, McNealy reckons. Wayin's trying to change that by scouring the internet looking for freely-available data on netizens' interactions with brands.

Wayin uses AWS and its own on-premises big data rigs to crunch the resulting data trove and deliver marketers information they can use to hone their tactics and score more sales.

McNealy says by this time next year Wayin will have data on one in seven humans.

On privacy, he says the company complies with all applicable laws wherever it operates and pays appropriate attention to security. On the ickiness of personalised advertising and its source being data individuals freely give to social networks, he says it's more pleasing to receive targeted ads than random stuff you don't care about.

“I buy golf clubs all the time because I think they will improve my game,” he said. “If I keep that secret, it will mean I am less aware of products I want. I will see ads for purses instead, and I am not going to buy a purse.”

Quit inventing the past, please

Something he does want to buy is a proper thin client.

“A true thin client is data-less and stateless,” he said. “Everyone is afraid to get all the way there. Unfortunately that is the one product [of Sun's that Oracle did not follow through.”

McNealy is disappointed Oracle abandoned that product but more disappointed that, to his mind, the technology industry is not currently creating wholly new ideas.

“I just hear everybody talk about the stuff we talked about years ago, like wearables,” he said.

“Sun did Google Glass in our labs before Google did. I was on the cover of Fortune in 1997 with a Java ring,” which he used to open doors.

“We said the network is the computer, which has become is cloud computing. We talked about multithreading, which happened. We said the world will move to virtual machines and it did.”

“3D printing is very interesting, but it is just a chemistry, manufacturing and control equivalent, miniaturised and modernised.”

McNealy says he also predicted the monitoring of biological processes, now reflected in the Internet of Things.

“I am looking for something truly unique that has not been talked about in the 80s 90s and early 2000s.”

One thing he's found is Liquidsky, a startup in which he has invested that turns smartphones into thin clients capable of playing console games and which he hopes will finally bring thin clients into mainstream use. ®

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