October 3, 2005 4:52 PM PDT

Google, Sun plan partnership

Sun Microsystems and Google plan to announce a collaborative effort that some analysts speculate could elevate the profile of the OpenOffice.org and Java software packages.

Details won't emerge publicly until Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Sun CEO Scott McNealy take the stage on Tuesday at a news conference in Mountain View, Calif. But one strong possibility is a partnership that could help shift personal computing out of Microsoft's domain and into Google's.

The partners have complementary assets for such a task. Sun has the open-source OpenOffice.org software suite and its close relative, StarOffice. It has Java software, which is well suited for network-friendly applications that run on any Java-enabled PC.

As for Google, its products have become daily resources for a vast number of computer users, and it offers a growing suite of software. In addition, it has the ambition of becoming the company that supplies network-based applications.

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What's new:
Google and Sun plan to announce a collaborative effort on Tuesday that analysts speculate could elevate the profile of the OpenOffice.org and Java software packages.

Bottom line:
One strong possibility is a partnership that could help shift personal computing out of Microsoft's domain and into Google's.

More stories on Sun and Google

One person who was possibly an influence on the change is Joerg Heilig, who for years was director of engineering for StarOffice at Sun, but who now apparently is a Google employee. Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady said he had heard Heilig had been hired by the search company, and Google's voice mail system includes an employee with that full name.

A hint about the upcoming announcement might lie in Sun President Jonathan Schwartz's blog entry about software distribution, posted Saturday. In recent years, the power of software provision shifted toward Microsoft and away from companies that distribute software, whether through stores or directly to customers, he wrote.

"You used what came bundled into Windows and got a new slug of functionality each time you upgraded. It was a good gig," Schwartz wrote.

Now the shift has gone further, as the Internet has allowed companies "to bypass Microsoft's legendary distribution power," he wrote, specifically mentioning Google as an example.

"Value is returning to the desktop applications, and not simply through Windows Vista," he wrote. "There's a resurgence of interest in resident software that executes on your desktop, yet connects to network services. Without a browser. Like Skype. Or QNext. Or Google Earth. And Java? OpenOffice and StarOffice?"

Google already has a significant collection of software that is dependent on a network rather than being tied to an operating system. They include Gmail for e-mail, the Desktop Search Sidebar (which offers customized news and information based on a computer users's activity), Picasa for photo management and Google Earth for satellite-based maps and geographic information.

A partnership with Sun that provided an office applications suite would round out that list--and dramatically increase the competition between Google and Microsoft, whose Office suite dominates the market for word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software.

"Google could deploy a version of Google Office at any time. The reason they haven't (is) they're not set up to serve enterprises with all the security and name recognition that Sun has," said Stephen Arnold, author of "The Google Legacy: How Google's Internet Search is Transforming Application Software." "That's a very obvious plus for Google," he said.

And Google has mammoth distribution power, O'Grady said. "Google has the ability to get into exponentially more places than does OpenOffice," he said, including places that "may never have heard of (OpenOffice.org) in the first place."

"Google has the ability to get into exponentially more places than does OpenOffice,"
--Stephen O'Grady, analyst, Redmonk

Microsoft counts Office as a major revenue source and continues to develop the product. A beta version of the upcoming Office 12 is due in November. Although the new version has some server-centric features, the product is still fundamentally a PC-based application suite.

Microsoft declined to comment for this story.

There already are close ties between the two companies, observed Caris & Co. analyst Mark Stahlman, who in the early 1990s heard talk at Sun about building the kind of network services that Google now is providing. Among the ties: Google CEO Schmidt was Sun's chief technology officer in the 1990s; John Doerr, a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, is on the board of both companies; and Andy Bechtolsheim, a Sun co-founder who returned to the company to launch its Galaxy servers, wrote a check for $100,000 that helped get Google started.

In addition, Google is an active Java user. Since 2004, it has been a member of the Java Community Process steering committee that governs the fate of the technology. Though Java hasn't caught on

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21 comments

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Why does Google need Sun?
Because, believe it or not, the pressure is really on Google, not Sun. Sun can continue to limp along indefinitely and maybe they'll make a comeback or maybe they'll fade away. The jury is still out. But Google cannot continue with their share price at almost 100x earnings. Sooner or later, somebody's going to realize "Hey ... wait a second ..."

Google has already given us some pretty impressive stuff. But how much of that stuff have *YOU* personally paid for, other than eyballing some ads. Sound familiar? Sounds like a replay of the dot com bust, to me.

Google has to move itself to the next level and it has to do it soon. Maybe Sun has something to offer that would enable Google to do that. One thing Google has is an amazing adoption rate. They put something out there, it's got limited functionality, they call it beta, and eveybody starts using it right away because it's already better than anything anyone currently has. That's exactly the kind of influence that could really cut a leg out from under MS Office, and even Windows very quickly.
Posted by Eggs Ackley (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why Does Google Need Sun?
Easy, enterprise customers.

In the telecom space, SBC and Verizon have essentially bought their seats at the table into virtually every large US enterprise by acquiring AT&T and MCI. A match with Sun could achieve the same for Google.

For Sun, Google is a manifistation of everything they claim to stand for.

I also agree that Google may need Sun alot more than they are letting on. I wouldn't be suprised if this is all just a prelude for whats really the only endgame for Sun: to be joined with a company that can actually make good on their "Network is the computer" dream. With their stock as low as it is (I mean, has been), the only issue I see is the timing of Google making the announcement.

Killer Web Services + Grid/Big Iron + Java/OSS = consumer/corparate from the bottom up.

It may be an understatement, but if this comes even remotely close to happening, IBM and M$ have big probelems ahead.
Posted by iometro (3 comments )
Link Flag
Google doesn't need Sun...
...and this is their first big mistake.

Google pulls in 3 billion in ad revenue, so you don't need to pay for any of their services. You just need to use them.

They want you to keep using them, so they think that by creating some online version of Star/Open Office that will make you hooked on Google even more. Maybe if they make it cool enough, but I'll keep using MS word on my local machine for that.

Everone else will to, trust me.

Sun needs Google as the party for Sun has long been over. Hardware business commoditized to nothing, Java not bringing home the bacon and fresh out of ideas. Sun's 6 big initiatives announced by McNealy are 1) Galaxy servers - too little too late 2) Solaris 10 - ok, but it's free so no revenue there 3) New Ultra sparc IV+ chip - nice, but what will the revenues be? 4) Java Enterprise System (Desktop) - Jesus, anyone buying this ought to be shot. It's just a web server, app server, directory server, calendar, portal, etc. 5) Storage Tek - maybe but storage biz is getting commoditized as well. 6)
Thin clients using Sunray and crap they bought from Tarantella - thin clients are not going to fly.

Those are Sun's 6 big ideas. Wow. On that announcement, analysts should have downgraded Sun's stock to "a joke".

The once mighty Sun sells cheap AMD boxes running Linux, that ought to tell you something.
Posted by nazzdeq (74 comments )
Link Flag
Time to Buy Sun Stock
Geez, I didn't see this one coming. I'm going to buy some Sun
stock now cuz it's going to be a good investment again.
Posted by (174 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good Luck with that gamble
Turning an office suite into an online application is not something that should be surprising any IT guru at this point. Why on Earth do you think Microsoft began rebuilding Office years ago on the .NET platform? Microsoft Office can easily be hosted in the same way as soon as MS decides to get it going. This strategy has been on the table for ages. The investement question is whether an online version of StarOffice can outsell an online version of Microsoft Office. Given the brand recognition and current install base of MS Office, I'd wager my money on Microsoft rather than Sun for the deployment of online productivity software.... assuming you REALLY think that consumers want to rely on the Internet for everything.

StarOffice competes with MS Office in a packaged software environment now, and it'll continue to compete in a hosted environment soon enough. I see no reason why it should suddenly become the world's most popular package.

By announcing such ideas, Sun and Google are playing their cards pretty early. We already know that Microsoft has been converting the Office suite to the .NET platform... but they've been more secretive with their strategy.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Time to Buy Sun Stock
Geez, I didn't see this one coming. I'm going to buy some Sun
stock now cuz it's going to be a good investment again.
Posted by (174 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why?
>>cuz it's going to be a good investment again

Based upon what? A partnership to release already-free software in a hosted environment? You are aware of the fact that Microsoft has the ability to release MS Office in a similar fashion, yes? You are betting that consumers will widely adopt a hosted productivity application, AND that they will convert from familiar Microsoft software to a version of Star Office... Seems risky...
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Sun has been promising a come back...
A partnership with Google should be good for both companies. I hope that's not the only trick Sun has coming though.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A free online desktop?? But there is one here already...
By the sounds of things these two companies are
planning to create a free online desktop with
office email and all the bits fully integrated,
secure and networked. That already exists at
http:www.cosmopod.com
Posted by iqula (59 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A free online desktop?? But there is one here already...
By the sounds of things these two companies are
planning to create a free online desktop with
office email and all the bits fully integrated,
secure and networked. That already exists at
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.cosmopod.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.cosmopod.com</a>
Posted by iqula (59 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SPAM
spam spam spam... spametty spam
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Link Flag
Bravo, Stephen Shankland!
The story aside, this was a conspicuously well-written news piece. Reporter Shankland resisted the compulsion endemic to his trade of assuming conclusions not in evidence, and chose instead to laboriously detail the clues that Joerg Heilig, Shepherd-in-Chief of Sun's fine "Star Office" product, is now employed at Google. Trends in the trade that other analysts have perceived were quoted and attributed to their respective sources, another bold Shankland break from his peers. And, the anecdotal dichotomy at the top of Sun revealed by the McNealy and Schwartz quotes was at once subtly informative and humorous. It was a great piece, Shankland, timely and sublimely!
Posted by kroebling (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A few weeks ago
I suggested OpenOffice being used towards Google's own Office
solution a few weeks ago. Should I sue Google for reading my
imagination?
Posted by Peej2K (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A few weeks ago
I suggested OpenOffice being used towards Google's own Office
solution a few weeks ago. Should I sue Google for reading my
imagination?
Posted by Peej2K (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wow
I better buy some Sun stock. This has all the makings of something exciting again. Sun has a lot of deep technology that Google could use and create a market.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re: Sun-Google
This is a great partnership!
Google needs to get into the enterprise with the Google Mini (or enterprise search) before Microsoft does it with future releases. The best way to do this is to leverage Sun's distribution network and bundle the mini with Sun servers. This enables Sun to offer more functionality for not much more money (thus helping their primary business of selling servers), and Google gets their tentacles into the enterprise by providing "mini" functionality for free. Once in the enterprise, the free Google desktop can now hook in to the google index of the enterprise data, and people can search enterprise data at the same speed with which they can search internet data.

The next part of the strategy allows the "Google Mini" cache to also cache the Google-Sun OpenDocuments inside the enterprise, giving almost the same effect as storing them on an enterprise-connected computer. It is win-win-win-win for Google, Sun, the enterprise, and the end user.

Cheers, Jay
Posted by jgodse (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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