Actually, it is, but McNealy would be well served to have his "Java Man" image banished to the publicity hound archives, where he can proudly take his place alongside Public Sun Enemy #1: Microsoft chairman and CEO William Gates. Nobody can forget last year's image of Gates on a raft donning bathing trunks with smiley faces (What's with these guys, anyway?).

But McNealy's posing in ridiculous super-hero get-ups (no doubt to the shrieking delight of Microsoft employees) and Sun's lawsuit against the Redmond, WA-based software giant for breach-of-contract in its Java licensing agreement were mere footnotes to the real story brewing in the financial technology business in 1997. Telephones from California's Silicon Valley to New York's Silicon Alley were ringing off the hook, giving way to an unprecedented number of strategic technology deals-mergers, alliances and partnerships-leveraging the core competency of each participating company to the greater benefit of the newly formed group.

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