Sun, Google to promote each other's software

CIOL Bureau
New Update

Eric Auchard


MOUNTAIN VIEW: Google Inc. will promote Sun Microsystems Inc.'s word processing and office software products in an alliance announced on Tuesday that could mark a first step toward challenging Microsoft Corp's dominance of the computer users' desktops.

Computer maker Sun and Web search company Google gave few details, saying they would jointly promote OpenOffice, Sun's free office productivity software that competes with Microsoft's Office suite of software, and Sun's Java software platform, which runs thousands of PC programs.

"Is this a threat to Microsoft? Not today," said Roger Kay, president of market research firm Endpoint Technology Associates. "But mammals weren't a threat either when dinosaurs were kings of the earth."


Sun will include the Google Toolbar for Web searches as an option when consumers download Java for the desktop. A Sun spokesman said that Google will pay Sun for each download of Java desktop containing the Google toolbar, declining to name that amount.

At the news conference in Silicon Valley featuring the chiefs of both companies, Sun and Google outlined a vision of working together to build the next generation of the Internet, but they gave few details.

Google also was vague on details of how it might use Sun software in its products, with CEO Eric Schmidt saying simply, "This is a very significant deal."


Java is a software platform that runs many programs but sits on top of different operating systems, from Linux to Windows, making it a potential technological uniter.

Some 700 million computers worldwide run Java programs -- but Sun has had little success commercializing its products to this vast audience. The test of the new relationship will be how far Google, with hundreds of millions of active Web users, goes to promote Sun products.

Java also runs on hundreds of millions of mobile phones, which are seen as the next frontier for competition among major technology companies.


"I think it's a pretty natural partnership here," said Scott McNealy, chief executive of Sun Microsystems.

At one time, Java was a potent threat to Microsoft's Windows operating system, but since Sun and Microsoft settled all their outstanding lawsuits against each other and agreed to cooperate, the two firms are now more selective in the arenas in which they compete.

Sun and Google share a common lineage because key employees at Google have worked at Sun and both firms are rivals of Microsoft, the world's largest software company.

Schmidt was an early promoter of Java technology within Sun Microsystems, when he worked there more than a decade ago.


"Working with Google will make our technologies available more broadly, increase options for users, lower barriers, and expand participation worldwide," McNealy said in a statement.

Financial terms were not disclosed. "There is going to be a lot of money flowing both ways if we do this thing right," McNealy said.

"We are going to work to make them (Sun technologies like Java for the desktop and OpenOffice) more generally available," Schmidt said in an interview, adding that, "There are lots of ways to do that."


Google Toolbar is a small header bar that fits within a computer user's Web browser which makes it more convenient for desktop PC users to use Google search and link to other tools with a single mouse click.

Asked whether Google might feature Sun's OpenOffice on the Google Toolbar, Schmidt responded: "That's speculation. We don't pre-announce our products," he said.

Sun declined to comment on whether OpenOffice would become a Web-delivered application.

OpenOffice offers many of the same functions of Microsoft's Word word processor, Excel spreadsheet and other applications in its Office business suite perform.

However, OpenOffice has only a tiny fraction of the users of Office, which is many office workers' primary software.