Microsoft and Sun partners?

The Hatfields and the McCoys, the Capulets and the Montegues, the Corleones and the Barzinis, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators. Feuds, disagreements and wars happen between people all the time. Inevitably they happen in the computer industry. What is remarkable

about the Microsoft Corp./Sun Microsystems Inc. battle is that it ended with peace. All of the other more famous vendettas either ended in death, scandal or heartbreaking loss (if you are a Senators fan).

Microsoft’s peace treaty with Sun has more to do with Linux as a threat than some new-fangled working relationship between the two firms.

On the surface, this looks to be a good deal for Sun. Sun boss Scott McNealy was dealing from a position of weakness. Sun is losing money and had to layoff 3,300 of its workers. But he managed to get a 10-year deal to integrate Solaris/Unix and Windows along with Java and .Net platforms against Linux. McNealy also gets close to US$2 billion from Microsoft to settle the anti-trust lawsuit against the Redmond, Wash.-based giant. This isn’t a drop in the bucket like the US$150 million Microsoft gave Apple a few years ago.

I can’t see how anyone can say more than a billion dollars is a drop in the bucket. Sure Microsoft has more than US$60 billion in the bank, but by paying Sun even a dime means that Sun had a case against them.

Even winning this anti-trust case would not have been as good as what Sun managed to do in this deal. It legitimizes their products. If there was any question about the viability of Java today there will not be one now. It also gives Solaris a shot at success. Sun customers requested better interoperability with Windows. They will have that now. This helps Sun on the long term maintain goodwill.

For Microsoft, this deal may cut the open source community at the pass. But Linux is here to stay. At a recent IBM press conference announcing Power5 processors, Alex Pinchev of Red Hat was on the stage talking about future success. “Linux growth is 40 per cent on average per year. This is higher than Microsoft. You can see the success,” Pinchev said.

Yes, Microsoft can see the success and with Sun in tow they have an answer to Linux on the enterprise.

Who says feuds have to end with bullet-riddled bodies, unfortunate suicides and the Maple Leafs losing in the playoffs.

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