Sun, Microsoft Kiss and Make Up
Microsoft agrees to pay out $2 billion to Sun in landmark agreement.
Sun CEO Scott McNealy says that customers drove Microsoft and Sun to the
reconciliation that created a 10-year partnership pack aimed at Sun/Microsoft
interoperability. But the true reasons are anybody's guess.
Let's face facts. Sun is facing down a critical loss of overall momentum
and Solaris market share in particular, 3,300 layoffs, and a loss of up
to $810 million for the third quarternot exactly a prime negotiating
Microsoft, meanwhile, is facing $613 million in anti-trust penalties
from the European Union, charges that Sun (and Netscape which Sun co-owns)
did much to fuel.
So perhaps in pure mutual self interest, the two giants concocted a deal
where Sun gets a nearly $2 billion payout to cover anti-trust and intellectual
property issues, and both parties agree to broad cooperation on interoperability.
In a mind-warping press conference, former Microsoft-basher McNealy promised
to "be good" and both he and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer pledged
their deep and undying friendship.
But the real story is the result this promises for IT. It's not just
an end to the bickering, though the nasty and cruel back and forth was
getting tiresome. It really means that it will be easier to blend Sun
and Microsoft technologies, whether they be discrete Windows or Solaris
servers or full-blown development environments such as Java and .NET.
In those respects, the companies agreed to:
- Share technology. Both agree to share details of server technology
to help insure interoperability. This includes core server OSs, major
applications such as messaging, and eventually new identity-based initiatives.
- Protocols. Sun will license Windows desktop protocols, which
will ease the interoperability of Sun and Microsoft client OSs and apps.
- Java. Microsoft is free to support its widespread Java Virtual
- Windows and Sun. Microsoft will certify Sun Xeon and eventually
Opteron-based servers as Windows-ready.
Regardless of motives, this agreement is a boon to customers (and antidote
to Sun's market woes and Microsoft's anti-trust problems), who will be
able to choose the server, application or development technology that
serves them best, without obsessing over whether it will work with already
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.