Sun, Google Partner On Web, Desktop Tech

The pact further positions Google to compete with Microsoft. As part of the agreement, Sun would distribute the Google Toolbar with the Java Runtime Environment available through Sun's portal for

October 5, 2005

3 Min Read
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Google Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. on Tuesday launched a technology partnership, but gave little indication as to where the deal would lead the companies, particularly as Google increasingly competes with Microsoft Corp. on the Web and desktop.

As part of the agreement, Sun, based in Santa Clara, Calif., would distribute the Google Toolbar with the Java Runtime Environment available through Sun's portal for Java technology. Sun claims the JRE, which is the operating environment of Java applications, is on 700 million desktops.

The Google Toolbar, an add-in to Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox browsers, adds a number of capabilities, such as web search, a spell checker for web forms and a blocker for pop-up ads.

In addition to the technology bundle, Google, which is a customer of Sun, planned to use more of Sun's products, but declined to provide details.

"Google is already a Sun systems customer, and we will extend that significantly," Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, said during a joint news conference with Sun CEO Scott McNealy.During the conference at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., both men declined to discuss future projects beyond the toolbar-JRE bundle. Instead, McNealy and Schmidt spoke in generalities, saying the companies were interested in working together on open-source projects and on Java technology. Google is a member of the Java Community Process, an industry body created by Sun to oversee development of the technology used in Web applications, mobile phones, and other areas.

"You could speculate all day long about all the different places and ways we could go in working together," McNealy said. "They're all legitimate speculation, but we can only really talk about what we're talking about here now."

Industry speculation leading up to the announcement had the two companies planning to release desktop software that would access application services over the Web similar to Microsoft Corp.'s Office productivity suite. Those capabilities could include word processing, calendaring, email, spreadsheets and more.

Such a service could be developed through a combination of Google's Web mail service, called GMail, and Sun's StarOffice, which is based on the open source suite OpenOffice. While StarOffice supports Microsoft's proprietary file formats, it also supports standards-based formats that are favored by some governments, such as the European Union and, more recently, the state of Massachusetts.

Nevertheless, McNealy and Schmidt refused to discuss whether the two companies were collaborating on taking StarOffice to the Web."We're not announcing anything along that line," Schmidt said.

Because the JRE is a kind of operating system for Java, Schmidt was asked whether the search engine giant was getting into the operating system business, which drives Microsoft.

"We're in the end-user search business," Schmidt said.

Asked whether the deal with Mountain View, Calif.-based, Google places Microsoft directly in its crosshairs once again, McNealy avoided the question, saying, "We're going after revenue, growth, profit, customers."

"That's all I've got to say," McNealy said.Sun last year announced a $1.6 billion deal with Microsoft in which Sun settled its antitrust and patent claims against the Redmond, Wash., software maker. In addition, the two companies agreed to pay royalties for use of each other's technology, with Microsoft making an up-front payment of $350 million. They also agreed to work together on interoperability between Sun's Solaris operating system and Microsoft's Windows.

Asked whether he considered the Google deal more important, McNealy said, "I can't predict which partnership will become important."

"(Microsoft) was a required partnership," McNealy said. "The customers wanted it (the interoperability)."

The Google deal could boost for Sun, given how the company has struggled to regain the stature it had in the industry during the dot-com era of the late nineties. Since the bubble burst, the computer maker has struggled financially as buyers of computer servers, the mainstay of Sun's business, have moved to Windows and open source Linux.

Partnering with Google gives Sun a position alongside a company that's seen as a leading innovator on the Internet today."We're focused on where the puck is going, not where the puck has been," McNealy, an avid hockey fan, said.

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