Putting the Sun/Google Partnership in Context

Do you remember back to the clash in New York a few years ago – pitting a cable television network (Cablevision) against a powerful sports franchise (The New York Yankees)? Cablevision deemed Yankees games “premium” content and priced them accordingly – the Yankees felt such a decision minimized their audience and filed suit, claiming the operator was exercising monopoly control over price and distribution. The net result – given Cablevision’s extraordinary market reach – few New Yorkers could watch Yankees games while they worked out the kerfuffle. That’s an example of a distributor having (in the short run) more power than the owner of content (ironically known in the industry as “programming”). MLB.com came to everyone’s rescue, delivering an incredible breadth of major league baseball programming to anyone with an internet connection – the network is the ball game. (Go check out MLB.com, it’s one of the finest internet sites out there.)

All that said, there are few cable operators powerful enough to skip over the big franchise content brands, like HBO, or ESPN – if your consumer offering lacks their programming, you’re going to have a tough time selling service to consumers. Some folks get cable, after all, just for ESPN.

In the personal computer industry, such a conflict has existed for a long while – the distributor (Microsoft) has legendarily had the power over what programming (software, in this case) is distributed with the underlying Windows platform. Implying non-Windows products and programming have a higher hurdle to clear in earning a path to consumers – a barrier cleared only by value.

Two of the internet’s most valuable brands have clearly achieved that status: Java and Google. Could you imagine a PC that couldn’t access Java services? Or how about a browser that couldn’t get to Google? My view, either would be a tough sell. Other programming, such as Macromedia Flash, Firefox and OpenOffice are in the same league – along with services such as Yahoo.com, eBay, or AOL.com. The world of network services is enormously competitive, and it’s driving enormous innovation (and quite a few deals harkening back to the early days of the internet). Much of this next wave of innovation is referred to as Web 2.0 – the convergence of technology and services that underlie the Participation Age.

Now, the volume distribution of Java (there are hundreds of millions of runtimes out there), coupled with the extraordinary success of the standards supported by OpenOffice (most recently in Massaschusetts), create an opportunity to partner with one of the hottest network service providers, Google. A point we confirmed in announcing our partnership yesterday.

So, what are we going to do together?

First things first, we’re going to complement one another’s volume distribution. Google’s looking to reach consumers with their next generation search client, as are we looking to reach more consumers, and simplify the user experience. By joining together, we can achieve far greater mutual reach for Java, OpenOffice and Google. The two of us continue to define choice, value and freedom to an ever growing internet. The best way to get people to participate on the web is give them the Tools of Participation. For free. And as more folks realize the deficiencies of a “submit button internet,” Java’s role is only growing.

Second, we’re going to drive platform innovations. Stay tuned for more on where this is headed, but notice the fact that Google is a member of the Java Community Process, the collaborative effort that drives the Java platform. We’re both big believers in client platform development, from AJAX to Java and OpenSolaris, and the era of rich clients is on its way back (it actually never left, but that’s another blog). If you’ve seen what you can do with Limewire or Zimbra, you have to believe the demise of the Submit button may be upon us.

Where will our collaboration take us – great question. Stay tuned. (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.

Third, we’re getting down to business – Google’s acquiring a growing array of Sun products and technologies for their business. And we (like it seems most of the planet) are continuing to be a loyal Google customer.

The net of all this (sorry for the pun)? If you have the time and wherewithal, I’d recommend you watch Eric’s opening speech during yesterday morning’s festivities – in which he talks about Google being built atop an open, neutral, interoperable network. The growth of that network is of value to Sun, and to Google – and to consumers the world over. And earning a path to those consumers and broader opportunity comes only through value – value in services, in technology, and in the choices delivered by freely available, and increasingly open source software.

The good news is, we’re not the only ones saying that now – this is the start of conveying that message to the whole world.

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