Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/04/sun_goog_pressconf/

Sun and Google tool around together

Microsoft safe for now

By Ashlee Vance

Posted in Software, 4th October 2005 19:52 GMT

Despite what Google-intoxicated hacks would have you believe, Sun and the search engine company have not created a stunning anti-Microsoft alliance. They have not teamed to end Office's dominance. They haven't done vast amounts of business together. No, Sun and Google have paired to promote the Google toolbar as an option when users download Java. Tremble not, Redmond.

Few items generate less excitement than toolbar agendas. These days, however, just attaching the Google name to an event apparently makes it significant. How significant? Well, investors have pushed Sun's shares up from close to $3.80 a share yesterday to $4.22 today just on the hint that the company might actually do something noteworthy with a certain search giant that loves colored balls.

Instead, we're left with this.

"Under the agreement, Sun will include the Google Toolbar as an option in its consumer downloads of the Java Runtime Environment on http://java.com. In addition, the companies have agreed to explore opportunities to promote and enhance Sun technologies, like the Java Runtime Environment and the OpenOffice.org productivity suite."

And the Google toolbar isn't even ready for download. It will appear "in weeks if not days", according to Sun's CEO, Scott McNealy.

"We will let everyone know when to go rush the website," he said, during a press conference here at the Computer History Museum. "We will beef it up a little."

The problem, however, is that even Google freaks - the types who would be excited if the ad broker started conducting mandatory, aggressive anal probes under the Fistoogle brand - won't find much to cheer here. They've already got the Google toolbar, and are tooling around like, well, you know.

For its part, Sun already serves up more than 20m downloads of Java per month. Will the availability of the Google toolbar - something already available from Google - make people want to download Java more?

No, this deal centers more around the obvious - marketing.

Someone is rich

Sun and Google have deep ties. As one publication noted, Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim was the first investor in Google. (He was also the first investor in Sun. Someone is rich.) In addition, Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, once worked at Sun, pushing its Solaris and Java efforts. All of these folks and the hard-working new Google hire Vint Cerf were on hand at the toolbar celebration.

"It is a cachet thing," said Anil Gadre, Sun's chief marketing officer in an interview.

Sun wants to bounce on those fabulous colored balls and ride the Google wave - a fact McNealy acknowledged via jest.

"I know you all would be here even if Google wasn't," he said, as the press and partners chuckled.

Graph showing Sun stock rise this week

Sun executives said they expect Google's indirect backing of Java to keep interest in the technology high. It's in that sense and only that sense that this deal is aimed at Microsoft. Both companies seem happy enough to say "Java" as much as possible. Google gets some extra toolbar downloads, and Sun gets the darling of the moment backing its software.

But is there even more to the deal?

"The agreement aims to make it easier for users to freely obtain Sun's Java Runtime Environment (JRE), the Google Toolbar and the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite, helping millions of users worldwide to participate in the next wave of Internet growth," Sun said in a statement.

Schmidt, however, downplayed anything regarding OpenOffice, saying Google was "not announcing any specifics along those lines." When pushed again, the Google CEO got even more vague, saying that Google supports open source projects. Who doesn't?

Sun's VP of marketing, Ingrid Van Den Hoogen, confirmed to The Register that there is in fact a broader partnership in play here, which the two companies have simply yet to announce. The deal does involve software, and both OpenOffice and OpenSolaris have come up as topics of possible shared initiatives. While this confirmation proves helpful, it doesn't ensure that Sun and Google will actually go through with such plans.

The most concrete part of their partnership seems to be that Google will buy more Sun hardware.

"We actually have been a Sun customer for a long time," Schmidt said. "As part of this contract, we are going to be extending that."

Many industry watchers expected Sun and Google to form a strong bond long ago given their obvious executive links. Both companies see Microsoft's customer base as an opportunity and don't really overlap in any obvious ways.

In that spirit, one might have hoped for a bigger bang here - something to really rattle the folks in Redmond. It seems almost certain that Sun and Google have much more ambitious plans than they revealed today. So, we'll wait to write our "Microsoft is scared" story until such ambitions are revealed. Toolbar stuff just ain't that gripping. ®