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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 quarter—not exactly a prime negotiating position.

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 Machine.
  • 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 installed pieces.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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