Google and Microsoft share in common massive tech kingdoms, mammoth stock prices, and practices that fuel privacy concerns among users. And now the giants will begin to compete in the realm of office productivity software--sort of. There's no Google office suite at this point. But the CEOs of Google and Sun Microsystems announced today that Google will promote Sun's OpenOffice, a Microsoft Office competitor with word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools. Last week, Sun released its StarOffice 8 suite (see our review), which shares code with the open source, free OpenOffice. As part of the deal, Sun will offer the Google toolbar as an option alongside Java runtime downloads.
Sun's COO Jonathan Schwartz hinted in his blog on Saturday, "If I were a betting man, I'd bet the world was about to change. Strap on your seatbelts." Today's announcement isn't revolutionary; some see it as a publicity stunt. But Google's colossal computers and servers, combined with its overwhelming Web presence, could enable it to deliver software online to the masses--ushering in an era where more software is tied to a network rather than to an operating system. Decentralization of software delivery is anticipated by many industry watchers, at a time when tech companies increasingly embrace the open-source movement.
Such developments should make Microsoft worry for its ubiquitous, profitable Office suite. Unlike Sun, Microsoft isn't building support for the open source OpenDocument format into its upcoming Office 12 suite. The state of Massachusetts raised eyebrows when it ditched Microsoft Office for the OpenDocument format.