Microsoft on Monday announced that it had reached a major Internet search deal with a former rival. It just wasn't the rival we've all been expecting. Instead, Sun Microsystems will distribute Microsoft's MSN browser toolbar to Internet Explorer (IE) users who download Java from the Sun Web site. (Microsoft also has a deal with HP to distribute the MSN toolbar on new computers starting in January.)
"This agreement with Sun Microsystems is another important milestone in our strategy to secure broad-scale distribution for our search offering, enabling millions more people to experience the benefits of Live Search," said Microsoft senior vice president Yusuf Mehdi. "With the vast array of Java software-based Web applications that are downloaded every month, this deal will expose Live Search to millions more Internet users and drive increased volume for our search advertisers."
Along with such stalwart technologies as Adobe PDF and Flash, Java remains one of the most frequently-used Internet technologies worldwide, and it is installed on an estimated 91 percent of Internet-connected PCs, or approximately 800 million computers. But this deal also marks a further step down the road to irrelevancy for Sun: Once one of the more vocal Microsoft critics and competitors, Sun in recent years has fallen on hard times. And while the company still sells traditional UNIX-based products, it has also begun--gasp--offering Windows Server on its servers as well.