Sun Drops Google for Microsoft Search

Posted by: Peter Burrows on November 09, 2008

Microsoft and Sun Microsystems announced that Microsoft’s Live Search will be distributed with Java, which is downloaded tens of millions of times a year. So when people download Java for the first time, they’ll get the opportunity to download the MSN Toolbar, which includes Live Search. Those that already have Java on their machines will get a chance to do so as well, via an online update.

It’s part of an effort by Microsoft to become more aggressive in landing distribution deals. It signed on PC leader HP earlier in the year. While Java may not be the hot new thing anymore, this certainly couldn’t hurt Microsoft’s efforts to pick up at least a little ground against Google. Java is present on 91% of PCs, says Microsoft. And Brad Goldberg, general manager of the Search Business Group, says that 35% of all search queries start in a browser — the search box, toolbar, or the address bar (as opposed to people going to search sites like Google.com or portals like Yahoo.com). To the extent that Java users decide to try Live Search, “This is a way to grow our volume, and grow awareness,” he says.

In itself, the deal is no game-changer for Microsoft. But beleagured Sun can use a vote of confidence right now—any vote of confidence. As Mary-Jo Foley at All About Microsoft notes, this one caps off a turbulent history between Sun and Microsoft, given the legal fight over Java a decade ago.

Of course, the deal also suggests that the 2005 hook up with Google didn’t turn out to be a game-changer, either. At the time, Sun hoped Google would over time help Sun popularize its Open Solaris operating system and Open Office application suite. And it hoped it could convince Google to start packing its data centers with Sun servers, rather than continue to roll its own server configurations. Given Sun’s huge sales and margin miss last quarter, I’m guessing that didn’t happen.


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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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