The vague Sun-Google alliance continues to feed speculation about the future – it’s become the hook for this week’s “Microsoft Is Gonna Die” stories. Sun President and Chief Blogging Officer Jonathan Schwartz has now chimed in, with a post that, according to its title, puts “the Sun/Google partnership in context.” The “context” turns out to be a fairly predictable mash-up of the Sun worldview and Web 2.0 buzzwordery.
Schwartz does drop some hints about a possible OpenOffice-based, Web-delivered office-applications suite (the phantom Google Office). “By joining together,” he writes, “we can achieve far greater mutual reach for Java, OpenOffice and Google.” He also says that one of the factors that led to the partnership was “the extraordinary success of the standards supported by OpenOffice” (“extraordinary success” is at this point more wishful thinking than fact). But then he drops in a disclaimer, in the form of a wonderful triple-negative sentence that absolutely defies interpretation: “And please don’t read in to my comments that I’m not convinced the world needs an AJAX office suite (any more than we need an AJAX browser) as anything more than a perspective on today’s reality.” So where is the Sun-Google partnership headed? “Great question,” responds Schwartz, helpfully. “Stay tuned.”
It’s worth remembering that Sun’s last big partnership announcement was with Microsoft. In April of last year, Sun CEO Scott McNealy and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer held a joint news conference to launch a 10-year pact for sharing intellectual property. As I understand it, one of the things they’ve been working on is enabling the delivery of Microsoft Office (and other Windows applications) through a virtual desktop on Sun’s Sun Ray thin-client platform. There’s no reason why you couldn’t subscribe to a utility desktop service, such as the one Savvis and Sun announced earlier this year, that bundles in Microsoft Office for a monthly fee.
There’s more than one way, in other words, to deliver office applications as a service, and no one yet knows which way, if any, will be successful. Sun will lend its hand, and its marketing rhetoric, to any model that has the possibility to expand the sales of its own products – as well it should. Sun’s not out to change the world; it’s out to make money for its shareholders. And, by the way, the same goes for Google.