SearchTHIS: Sun + Google = a New World

Warning: This week’s column refers to forward-looking statements made by big corporations that may differ from actual results, materially.

Change the world, you say? Now that is an interesting way for a Google Group to present a new partnership, isn’t it? Nevertheless, a new collaborative effort between Google and Sun Microsystems was announced -- and much-discussed later -- yesterday via press conference. Of course, it may not change the world, but it might just change our environment.

Google and Sun have expanded an existing partnership to include, among other things not yet revealed, a distribution plan for the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), the Google Toolbar and, Sun’s office productivity suite.

Will our desktops change forever? Will Sun take back the web? Will toolbar advertising revenue graduate beyond the rounding error designation?

Naturally, a natural partnership

Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems chairman and chief executive along with Dr. Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, revealed the down and dirty of new collaborative efforts between the two companies. McNealy referred to the deal as a natural partnership, the number one search provider with the number one open source platform.

McNealy also jovially reminisced about pre-bubble-burst days when Sun was big; he then looked ahead with a statement about Sun’s intention to, “take back the web.” He referenced the 20 million downloads of Java per month and over 900 Java Community partners, and went on to say that Google is going to be a part of that.

The clear intention is to leverage existing downloads from both Google and Sun. The Google Toolbar will then correspond with expansion plans for Java Community Environments. Google has endorsed the open source platform, but isn’t it the reason for this painfully obvious?

Will the new partnership be a step in the right direction towards Google's goal of information domination, otherwise known as organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful? The world awaits a sign.

Target: blue desktop application

The question on everyone’s minds at yesterday’s press conference seemed to relate to the possible competitive targeting of Microsoft. “Are you going after Microsoft?” one reporter asked. Minutes later, yet another question followed with an identical tone: what’s the Microsoft targeting strategy?

McNealy answered the first question with the world’s greatest generic, non committal response: we are going after profits and revenue.

In case any of you doubted who currently has those profits, it would be Microsoft. And let us not forget that the JRE must be installed on machines in order to run Java-based applications. Remind you of any other operating systems?

Adding a twist of lime to the discussion was a reminder that Sun and Microsoft are also partners. When McNealy was asked if the Microsoft relationship was as natural a partnership as the Google relationship, he referred to it as a required partnership. “Microsoft is everywhere,” McNealy said.

The word "required" sounds somewhat less than warm and fuzzy. Yes, of course it is required since Microsoft is a dominant force in the business, and it will be interesting to see how the planned increase in collaboration between Google and Sun will affect Sun's relationship with Microsoft.

Convergence and advertising

Speaking of profits and web domination, the two companies have agreed to explore opportunities to promote and enhance Sun technologies. Advertising was only briefly mentioned in yesterday’s press conference, but it was clear that profit sharing from ad revenue is part of the deal.

What might the future hold? Since Sun and Google will be jointly promoting and distributing technology, it is only a matter of time before we see a sharper and more integrated ad platform served up with your Java download. After all, this is a multi-year agreement to promote Java Technology and the Google Toolbar along with other products or technologies that have yet to be revealed.

The combination of Google Toolbar and the content capabilities of Java may just provide better targeting options. The possibility of going beyond BT -- what we consider intelligently reaching out to users with simple demographic and psychographic profiling -- without creating a nuisance or a perceived privacy intrusion sounds quite promising.

Power to the… ?

Attendees of the press conference witnessed what may have been the highlight of the press conference in Schmidt’s gift of a Lava lamp to McNealy. There was a bit of disarray on stage as the gift was introduced, and McNealy appeared a bit confused as to the significance of the lamp. Confusion and disarray might be a great theme for the new partnership.

If the goal is to offer the consumer more choices, why not offer other competitive desktop applications and tool bars? If you really believe in open source, why do you want to take back the web? Who are you planning to take it from? Perhaps Microsoft, or perhaps the people?

The recent shifts in policy, changes in partnerships and focus for many key search-driven providers have exemplified changes to the desktop world as we know it. It is possibly ironic and most definitely entertaining to watch this technical world move away from simply creating a functional utility for all.

In the end, money does in fact make the world go ‘round. One never seems to have enough and it’s a bit disappointing to see the web domination motivation crouching on top of the open source theme.

Additional resources:

SearchTHIS: Google, AutoLink & Video Mash

iMedia Search Editor Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. Ryan believes in sound guidance, creative thought, accountable actions and collaborative execution as applied to search, or any form of marketing. His principled approach and staunch commitment to the industry have made him one of the most sought after personalities in online marketing. Ryan volunteers his time with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, and several regional non-profit organizations.
Kevin Ryan is chief strategy officer at
Zunch Communications.