SEATTLE – In its latest move to increase Internet search traffic, Microsoft Corp. has turned to an old rival, Sun Microsystems Inc., for marketing help.
Under the terms of a deal being announced Monday, Sun will promote a Microsoft toolbar for the Internet Explorer browser to U.S.-based Web surfers as they download Sun’s Java software — which is required to view some Web sites. The toolbar has a built-in box for queries to Microsoft’s Live Search and buttons that give people access to MSN content.
“We need to provide more volume to our advertisers,” said Angus Norton, a senior director in Microsoft’s Live Search group. Microsoft ranks a distant third in the Web search market behind Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.
Sun and Microsoft have competed bitterly on several fronts. In particular, Sun was one of the most prominent antagonists in Microsoft’s long antitrust battles. In 2004, Sun reaped nearly $2 billion in a patent and antitrust settlement payout from Microsoft.
Sun and Microsoft did not disclose the financial details or the length of their new deal. It comes as Sun is struggling mightily, having posted a $1.7 billion loss in its most recent quarter.
Through the agreement with Microsoft, computer users installing the Java software will be able to check a box to get the MSN toolbar, too. (As the programs download, Sun also opens a window promoting OpenOffice programs — a free competitor to Microsoft Office software.)
Sun has struck similar deals with Google and Yahoo in the past. The Yahoo agreement, which offers a Yahoo search toolbar to people who use the Firefox browser, will continue, but the Google deal is ending, said Sun’s vice president of Java marketing, Eric Klein.
Microsoft is trying several ways of getting unstuck from third place in the search market.
After Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft dropped a bid to buy Yahoo in May, it vowed to invest in its own search technology and spend money on deals aimed at attracting more Web surfers.
The most prominent deal so far calls for Hewlett-Packard Co. to make Microsoft’s search engine the default on all PCs shipped in the U.S. and Canada, starting in January. HP will also include a browser toolbar on those computers.
Microsoft is focusing on toolbars and default settings because, according to Norton, 35 percent of Web searches are conducted from the browser’s address line, built-in search boxes and add-on search toolbars, as opposed to a search provider’s Web page.