Sun, Google to Push Java, Toolbar

MOUNTAIN VIEW — Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy has pushed his company’s vision of the network as the computer for many years. Now Google is onboard.

The two companies announced an agreement today to work together to promote the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), the Google Toolbar and the productivity suite.

Sun will include the Google Toolbar as an option in JRE consumer downloads. JRE is a software package that needs to be installed on a machine in order to run Java applications.

“We want to leverage network economics and downloads [of the Java runtime],” McNealy told press conference attendees. “This is a very strategic partnership to promote the Java runtime and the Google Toolbar.”

McNealy said the Google Toolbar download option will be available on in a few weeks, if not days.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that while there were no immediate plans to offer a Web-based version of OpenOffice per se, Google does plan to offer some of its functionality.

“Historically, when people say Microsoft Office, OpenOffice or StarOffice, they mean a very specific product,” Schmidt said. “In the Web services model, there’s a lot of authoring, e-mail, integration and search that’s different [from what you find in these products].”

While he said the companies weren’t announcing anything specifically about offering a Web-based version of OpenOffice, “it makes sense that these boundaries [between office productivity applications and the Web] become less obvious as the technology for Web services improves.”

However, Sun president Jonathan Schwartz implied that Web-based business productivity functions certainly are in the picture.

“You’ll see an increasing dissolve in the boundary between consumer and work applications,” Schwartz said.

He noted that people use consumer applications such as Google Earth and Search to get their jobs done.

“The boundaries between the two worlds are disappearing,” he said, “and both of us are interested in seeing that happen.”

Schmidt worked for Sun for 13 years and had high praise for McNealy’s leadership and vision.

“In the late 80s, people started to listen to Scott’s vision and implement the open Web. And it turned out that Java was the perfect programming environment for it,” Schmidt said. “Then Google comes along and builds on top of this. We build the next layer, the next set of services on top, and we build the applications people will use.”

The Google Toolbar is a search and surfing utility that integrates with the browser, enabling Web search and other functions without the need to go to a search site.

Distribution of the Google Toolbar helps Google retain its lead as a provider of searches — and its revenue from showing ads against search results.

“The Google Toolbar will be downloaded by tens of millions of people as result of this partnership,” Schmidt said, “a new set of users.”

For Sun, Google’s help in distributing will support Sun’s StarOffice suite of office applications.

Gary Edwards, a software consultant and designated representative of the community project, said that while Sun is the greatest benefactor the open source community could ever hope for, it’s struggled with StarOffice.

Sun sells StarOffice 8.0 for $69.95, and the company provides migration tools for businesses that want to migrate from Microsoft Office. Sun claims 52 million downloads to date.

“Sun is trying very hard to find a way of monetizing StarOffice, while at same time making OpenOffice the best desktop productivity environment anyone has ever seen,” Edwards said. “They know the way to create opportunity in the marketplace is for OpenOffice to win on the desktop. StarOffice has to come in over the top of OpenOffice as an enterprise application.”

Evidently, the cooperative agreement includes new ways to distribute Google’s pay-per-click advertising.

“There will be a lot of money flowing both ways if we do this right. We’ll use their advertising, and they’ll use our technology,” said McNealy.

Sun hardware is also part of the deal. “We’re already a Sun systems customer,” Schmidt said, “and we will extend that significantly.”

The executives sealed the marriage with an exchange of gifts. Schmidt was presented with an Opteron server and a copy of StarOffice 8, while McNealy got the iconic Google lava lamp.

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