October 4, 2005 1:22 PM PDT

Sun and Google shake hands

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Sun Microsystems and Google announced a multiyear partnership Tuesday to help spread and develop each other's software, a deal that includes OpenOffice.org, Java and OpenSolaris from Sun, and Google's Toolbar.

The partnership begins with a modest step: Within 30 days, the Google toolbar will become a standard part of the software people get when they download Java from Sun's Web site. The Java Runtime Environment is downloaded 20 million times per month, Sun Chief Executive Scott McNealy said.

"What Netscape did for the Java Runtime Environment, we believe the JRE can do for the Google toolbar," McNealy said at a news conference here, referring to the 1995 deal Sun made with Netscape, then the dominant maker of Web browser software, that helped legitimize and popularize Sun's Java software technology.

Sun also will benefit from the toolbar bundling. "There is direct monetary value for us from being a distribution mechanism for the toolbar," said John Loiacono, Sun's executive vice president of software. And Google will significantly increase its purchasing of Sun servers, though neither company would say which models.

"There is direct monetary value for us from being a distribution mechanism for the toolbar."
--John Loiacono, executive VP of software, Sun

The partnership matches two companies with a shared vision of a world being remade by ubiquitous computer networks. Where Sun wants to provide the back-end infrastructure such as servers at Google, eBay and SalesForce.com, Google wants to be part of the daily lives of everyday computer users.

The software the companies are working on all directly compete with Microsoft--for example, Java provides an alternative programming foundation to Windows and Microsoft's .Net, and OpenOffice competes directly with Microsoft Office. The Google Toolbar, meanwhile, leads to Google's services and not those Microsoft is trying to promote through MSN.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt sidestepped any direct mention of competition with Microsoft. But in an interview, Sun President Jonathan Schwartz was less reserved. "Do you see Google joining forces with Microsoft on the evolution of .Net? Last I checked, no," Schwartz said.

Next up: meeting the high expectations the companies have set. "The pressure of perception is on them to move this forward quickly," said Michael Dortch, an analyst at Robert Frances Group.

But Dortch expects the collaboration will be fruitful. "This is driven at a more grassroots level at both companies," which both promote open-source software, sharing and participation, he said. "I'm confident other stuff will come quickly. There's too much money and reputation on the line."

The companies envision further software distribution deals, too, a partnership Schwartz believes will become more significant as network bandwidth increases and its costs decrease. "We're talking about putting our assets together so we can leverage each other's distribution," Schwartz said.

Part of that work will include Google helping to spread OpenOffice.org, Schmidt said. "We'll work to make the distribution of it more broad," he said.

And OpenOffice.org will be endowed with a Google search box--assuming the open-source community that develops it can be persuaded--Schwartz said in an interview. That persuasion shouldn't be too hard; Sun, which made the decision to release the source code for what now is OpenOffice, still has heavy involvement in the project.

Many elements of the partnership remain secret, but Sun executives offered some hints and details.

The companies will conduct joint research and development and joint marketing, Loiacono said, and Google will increase its involvement in the Java Community Process and other technologies.

McNealy said Google will become involved in Sun's open-source OpenSolaris. "There's a huge alignment strategy with research and

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