Sources close to the joint efforts between Google Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. say rampant speculation about hosted desktop productivity offerings and common operating systems is way off base.
Insiders with knowledge of the joint plans to promote and enhance the OpenOffice.org desktop productivity suite say it is far more likely that Sun and Google will find ways to promote both OpenOffice.org and Google Toolbar, including having Toolbar included as part of OpenOffice.org, StarOffice, and even OpenSolaris and Suns branded Solaris products.
Google Toolbar is a search and Web-surfing utility that integrates with Web browsers.
“A hosted desktop productivity offering has not been well-received when it has been tried in the past, and those have been beset with problems, including a lack of network bandwidth and speed,” said one source. “There are also currently quite a number of existing user options, from Microsoft Office and Microsoft Works to Corels WordPerfect Office, Suns StarOffice and the free OpenOffice.org, so what benefit would a hosted offering bring?”
Thomas Nau, head of the Communication and Information Centers Infrastructure Department at the University of Ulm, in Germany, and a Sun customer, agreed.
Nau welcomed collaboration between the two companies but said, “I have yet to see a Web-based desktop that really works. I also doubt there will be one soon that becomes anything more than a niche product.” Nau, like many others, said he will not even consider using such a product.
Under the joint agreement the companies announced earlier this month, Google, of Mountain View, Calif., committed to promote and enhance Sun technologies such as the OpenOffice. org suite and JRE (Java Runtime Environment). In return, Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., will include Google Toolbar as an option in its consumer downloads of the JRE.
But the lack of specifics, along with the fact that Google is widely expected to make a move on the desktop productivity and operating system fronts, has fed the rumor mill.
John Loiacono, executive vice president for software at Sun, has said that possible future collaboration projects under discussion with Google include work on OpenOffice. org, as well as cooperative arrangements in which each company will point its customers to the others technology. “This is just Phase 1 of a multiphase approach,” he told eWEEK.
Asked about possible collaboration between the two companies on Suns Solaris and OpenSolaris operating systems, Loiacono said Sun has disclosed all its existing and planned technologies to Googles technologists so they can see what is useful and what Google may be able to help with.
For his part, Google CEO Eric Schmidt would say only that Google engineers contribute to the open-source community and open-source projects, of which OpenSolaris is one.