RealTime IT News

Would You Like Live Search With Your Java?

In a further thawing between the two companies, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems announced this week that Sun has begun offering the Redmond software titan's MSN Toolbar to its Java users as a free download, effective immediately.

The toolbar will provide Internet Explorer users with one-click access to Microsoft's Live Search, Live Hotmail, and Live Messenger, according to a Microsoft statement. There's only one hitch – well, two.

First, getting the MSN Toolbar is only an option for users downloading Sun's Java Runtime Environment (JRE), not a requirement. Second, the deal only applies to the U.S.

Nevertheless, every small – or large -- win for Live Search is another leg up for Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) search business versus Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), the king of the search engine hill.

"It means an additional way for Microsoft to get Live Search in front of users," Matt Rosoff, analyst at Directions on Microsoft, told InternetNews.com. "It's a good distribution channel."

And what a bounty that could mean for Microsoft.

According to Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA), some 91 percent of PCs worldwide have a copy of the JRE installed. That all adds up to more than 800 million PCs running Java, not counting mobile phones, smart cards, set top boxes, medical devices and other devices, Sun claims.

What a change from five years ago, when the two were still at each others' throats.

For many years, Sun and Microsoft were as near to blood enemies as you could find in the tech marketplace. After years of lawsuits and bitter words, however, the companies finally settled many of their differences in the spring of 2004, when Microsoft cut Sun a check for $1.95 billion.

However, that didn't stop Sun from pursuing antitrust complaints against Microsoft in the European Union, which ultimately resulted in the software maker paying the EU nearly $1 billion in fines. A further $1.35 billion follow on fine against Microsoft in the EU is currently on appeal.

"Our goal is to provide Java users with compelling and immersive business and consumer solutions powered by Java technology and value-added solutions from world-class software partners,” Rich Green, Sun's executive vice president of software, said in a statement.

Rosoff pointed out that this is not Microsoft's first foray into getting vendors to bundle its Live Search technologies. For example, HP announced in early June that the computer maker's 2009 consumer PCs will come with a Silverlight-based version of the Microsoft Live Search toolbar preinstalled as the default search engine.

The point, for Microsoft at any rate, is to continue beefing up its efforts to challenge Google in the search engine market space.

According to Web analytics tracking firm Net Applications, Microsoft holds less than a five percent market share of global search engine traffic, while Google holds nearly 81 percent.

If Google's recently failed deal with Yahoo, which has a 10 percent share, hadn't fallen through, its share would be even higher. Of course, the same could be said about Microsoft, had its unsolicited bid for Yahoo not been turned away earlier in the year.

"With the vast array of Java software-based web applications that are downloaded every month, this deal expose Live Search to millions more Internet users and drive increased volume for our search advertisers," Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president for Microsoft's online audience business, said in a statement.