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October 04, 2005

Sun and Google’s Partnership Potential

By Charlene Li

After all of the hype over the past day, the actual announcement between Sun and Google was pretty subdued. Here’s what they will work together on:

1)       Google Toolbar will be distributed with Java Run Time (JRT) downloads from http://java.com. Sun reported that they get about 20 million downloads of JRT a month.

2)       Google and Sun will also “explore” distributing Google Toolbar with downloads of OpenOffice (available at Openoffice.org), which has had 50 million downloads in the past year or so.

Now here is our take on it – and for this, I drew on the considerable expertise of my colleague, John Rymer.

First, JRT is used in many consumer applications, especially in music and entertainment. The fact that Windows does not ship with JRT means that each time consumers try to initiate an application that uses Java, it checks to make sure that it has the latest version. If not, the app directs the user to java.com for the download. Voila! You’ll get Google Toolbar as one of the things to download. And we understand that the Toolbar download will be “opt-out” meaning that the default will be to download Toolbar and that users have to take decline the download. Depending on how it’s actually implemented, it’s a fairly aggressive stance to take. What’s interesting is that Google will be *paying* Sun for those Toolbar downloads. It’s not clear how much, but the value is definitely flowing in Google’s direction here, so they have to pay up.

Second, is the “explore” option of attaching Toolbar to OpenOffice. John and I suspect that the reason they didn’t come right out and say that Toolbar would also be downloaded with OpenOffice is because they haven’t reached an agreement yet on how much Google should be paying Sun – or vice versa. This is because value flows in both directions in such an agreement. Google wins with OpenOffice distribution concentrated primarily in China and India, markets Google is eager to penetrate. Sun wins as its downloads have been primarily targeting techies and could benefit from further exposure and distribution to Google’s vast legions of loyal search consumers. For these reasons, we believe that there are probably more detailed conversations that need to be worked out.

Third, there’s an unspoken opportunity here for Sun’s core business – selling hardware. Google has built thousands of its own servers and is one of the biggest users of Linux. We believe that at some point, Google will be under pressure to finally outsource that server manufacturing to someone like Sun. That was probably some of the logic that drove Sun's stock price up 6.5% on Monday.

Lastly, you gotta wonder about the possibilities of the largest search engine teaming up with the largest proponent of open source. Google is eager to offer non-Windows non-Microsoft Office options that it can be a part of, while Sun needs that strong, consumer distribution to move the open source revolution out of the enterprise. I'm looking forward to Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz's speech on Thursday at Web 2.0.


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» Different Views on Sun-Google Announcement from IP Democracy
The Sun-Google announcement certainly wasnt as big or clear as many had speculated, so its not too surprising that views on its significance were pretty varied (heres a video of the press conference): Heres Om Maliks take: T... [Read More]

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Carlene Li hat einige interessante Punkte zu der Pressekonferenz von gestern angemerkt:Sun and Google’s Partnership Potential. Eigentlich ist das Potential noch wesentlich groesser. Wenn ich mal meine Unterderdusche-Spekulationen teilen darf: Klar wird d [Read More]


Suresh Kumar


ive thought about this. and i don't fully buy it.

Sun and Google are probably building out a whole load of infrastructure using Solaris on commodity Intel.

Ican't but help think that as usual when 2 companies build a relationship... the marketing guys chummy up and announce some kind of tie-up.

This clearly seems like it -- a damp squid.

And why? -- because the synergy is tenuous as best.

Im not joking when i say... i can't remember the last time i downloaded a Java Applet... between DHTML/Javascript/Flash/AJAX most things are achieveable for lightweight browser based apps.

As for Java/Swing applications... that debated died 5 years ago... i really think its time to get real... it may be used in Admin consoles and Installers (Oracle!)... but the JRE has little or no place on the desktop -- certainly not the consumers desktop.

Google will have much better luck getting their toolbar pre-installed by getting tie-ins with Dell, HP, Lenovo, Mozilla/Opera, Linux dists. than with Sun.

All the chatter on the net about StarOffice tie-ins are by people NOT people using StarOffice they are more likely to be using MS-Office.

This just seems to be some kind of academic speculation (trying to will/justify this weak tie-in) which is not based at all in reality.

That said, the most telling opportunity is the use of StarOffice in Asia where companies may be reluctant to pay license fees.

Now if Google and Steve Jobs could talk... now THAT would be worthy of hours and pages of speculation. :)


I was forced to use staroffice as it is the only text editing software on my company's computers. Frankly speaking, it is bad to use. I will never use it in my own laptops.

Mark Sigal

I am not the first person to say this, but this "deal" smells an awful lot like a big valentines day card from Eric Schmidt to his former employer, Sun.

Sun has lost its mojo as a cool company and the association with Google has some halo effect for Sun.

I can see plenty of theoretical goodness scenarios for Sun but not a whole heck of a lot of love for Google.

As others have stated, Java is largely irrelevant on the client side, which is what this announcement was focused on. This is even more so with the emergence of Ajax.

As I was parsing through the details, I thought a lot about how PR really works in large companies. They accrue a bunch of "stories" that can be announced in succession which creates a self fulfilling buzz prophecy.

Net-net: for Google, this keeps the embers burning, casts further shadows on Redmond about Googles plans to usurp the desktop, yet reveals nothing concrete.

To be clear, Google's best path to outflanking Microsoft, which is basically the strategy they are pursuing, is to solve a different problem than MS Office. Open Office is a losing strategy to match MS Office punch for punch and while Sun may have not gotten this, Google seems to completely get it.


Even though a complete yawner, the announcements were still surprising. It's not clear that Google could really get anything from a has-been like Sun. Bundling the Google Toolbar with an unrelated piece of software like the Java runtime reeks of spyware. The StarOffice thing is total wishful thinking on Sun's part as Google will obviously go with OpenOffice. And why would Google start buying overpriced proprietary hardware? This thing really smells.

Ohadi Langis

I agree that the reason Sun and Google didn't announce more details on OpenOffice is because the details aren't worked out. I know why - lawyers! In 2004 I was the project manager for the acquisition and deployment of a 300 server grid computing facility. We bought the servers and 12 Tb of storage from Sun. The project schedule was set back a full month while Sun's lawyers argued about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. They nearly screwed Sun out of the sale because we reached our 'walk away' point just two days before they finally closed on all issues. My solution the next time I have to do a deal with Sun is to send all the lawyers on a long ocean cruise and don't let the ship back into port until the hardware ships to the customer!

Anders Kargaard Jensen

So GS (Google-Sun) wanted to let everyone know that they were going to cross promote before a lot of products are ready to be shipped. Its not that bad. The potential here is really amazing.

There is one major reason that the free Office from GS will come: Microsoft's best chance to gain share in Search (which is so extremely lucrative) is with money from Office (41% of their operating income) and with integration of Search into office. This leaves Office as the most powerful weapon MSFT has in its arsenal to compete with Google. This naturally leaves Google with a desire to gain market share in Office - not necessarily for themselves - but for Sun is fine, as long as share is taken from Microsoft. At the same time Google can get and will get the same integration into Open Office that Microsoft is planning for MSN Search in their coming operating system Vista's Office.

But hasn't it been tried so many times before - attacking MSFT Office? Yes it has. But every single time without proper distribution apart from people being able to download it from somewhere. This time around it is backed by mighty popular Google, where Open Office can be integrated into many of the functions of Google Toolbar, Gmail, Gtalk etc. etc. Also Google has build the world's largest parallel computer covering no less than "earth". With this extraordinary power Internet based software actually becomes possible. Expect Google to support it by free broadband. If they can supply free Wi-Fi, then why not free broadband? It will be paid for by Adwords of course. If Yahoo! in their new beta mail have changed everything to feel as easy, quick and nimble as a desktop application, although it is just online - then it must be a matter og time, before Google can do the same.

So maybe we didn't hear those concrete product launches last Tuesday, but you can be sure, that they will come! Its probably the most important priority for Google the next 2-3 years.

Paris Hilton video

So maybe we didn't hear those concrete product launches last Tuesday, but you can be sure, that they will come! Its probably the most important priority for Google the next 2-3 years.

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