Google, Sun tout software deal

Google Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. Tuesday unveiled a partnership to distribute the Google Desktop with the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), but stopped short of revealing any future plans to bring Sun applications such as the StarOffice productivity suite to the Web through Google services.

At a press conference in Mountain View, California, Tuesday, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt and Sun Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Scott McNealy unveiled a deal between the companies that they said will start with the marriage of the Google desktop and Java, and expand in any number of directions.

“We want to leverage the network economics [with] a very strategic partnership to promote the Java Runtime Environment and the Google toolbar,” McNealy said at the event at the Computer History Museum Tuesday morning. “Going forward there’s lots more we can do. They have a lot of smart folks at Google … This is a very natural partnership. There’s going to be a lot of money following if we do this thing right.”

While a press statement said that Google also is exploring options to expand distribution of — the open-source suite on which Sun’s StarOffice is built — executives did not elaborate on how this would be done.

Schmidt, McNealy and Sun President and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Schwartz, who joined the two CEOs on stage to field questions after the press conference, only alluded to future plans the companies may have to deliver software such as as a service on a joint network built using Sun infrastructure, the news that many analysts and industry-watchers believed would be the focus of Tuesday’s event.

They also declined to admit their union was designed to compete better with Microsoft Corp., a chief rival for both Google and Sun.

“The point here is both [Google and Sun] are dedicated to software as a service, to the network as the computer,” McNealy said. “All US$2.2 billion of our R&D [investment] has some applicability to somehow make the Google experience better, or we wouldn’t be doing [the partnership]… We can only talk about what we’re talking about now and there is a lot of conversation and cross-pollination [between us], and we expect more to come.”

“One thing to understand about Java is that it’s a programming platform,” Schwartz said. “As Google looks to expose more and more APIs (application programming interfaces) [on the Web], they need to make sure that platform can evolve. There’s lots of opportunity here.”

He added that the two companies would not spell out exactly what the opportunity is “partially because of the element of surprise” about what they plan to deliver in the future.

McNealy and Schmidt also said that Google, already a Sun customer, would be expanding that role, but declined to reveal exactly how that would be done.

Following the press conference, Schmidt said in an interview that the companies “would never pre-announce anything.” However, when asked whether the companies have no plans to offer applications as services using Google’s network, he cautioned, “Don’t put words in my mouth; I never said that.”

During the press conference, McNealy stressed that Sun is determined to “take back the Web” and regain some of its former glory epitomized in a previous marketing slogan that Sun was “the dot in” He declined to say exactly what that might mean in the future for the Sun-Google relationship.

However, McNealy did hint that partnering with Google was a clear statement that Sun plans to provide infrastructure to offer customers applications as services the way some of its existing customers already do.

“We’ve made some progress with software-as-services companies such as,” McNealy said. “What better way to make a statement than to partner with Google, the leader of Web services.”