Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sun Streams Through Windows

Sun Microsystems (nasdaq: JAVA - news - people ), the computer company whose co-founder and Chairman Scott McNealy derided Microsoft's (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) Windows operating system as a "welded-shut hairball," announced Tuesday it will be begin selling computer servers running Microsoft Windows.

Yes, Sun Microsystems truly has joined the ranks of PlanetMagpie and Tecolote Research as a "Microsoft Certified Gold Partner." McNealy wasn't immediately available for comment on the news, which will see his company selling software from the company he used to call "the evil empire" and "the beast from Redmond." However, the announcement builds on an agreement McNealy announced in April 2004 when he was still Sun's chief executive. As part of that arrangement, Microsoft paid Sun $1.95 billion to settle antitrust and patent complaints.

Sun set itself apart from other computer makers by doing it all: It designed its own microprocessors, its own operating system and was proud of it. But Sun's fortunes sagged after the dot-com bust as customers scrambled to cut costs and bought systems based on Intel microprocessors and either Microsoft or Linux software. Sun eventually followed suit, building servers powered by x86 class microprocessors from chip maker AMD, then Intel, and by building a rapprochement with its former rivals at Microsoft.

Now, not only will Sun make Windows Server 2003 available on servers using processors from Intel and AMD, Sun and Microsoft will cooperate to make their virtualization technologies work well with each other's operating systems. Both companies hope to benefit: Microsoft will get another invitation to the corporate data centers where Sun systems run along those of IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ), HP (nyse: HPQ - news - people ) and Dell (nasdaq: DELL - news - people ). And Sun will try to ensure that Solaris remains a player.

Sun and Microsoft will seal their ongoing partnership by building an "Interoperability Center" on Microsoft's Redmond, Calif., campus, a place that would have seemed as mythical as Oz during the heat of the Microsoft antitrust investigation. The center will include an area where visitors can go see Sun hardware, no doubt running Windows software. Shares of Sun Microsystems rose 5 cents, to $5.66 from $5.61, in Wednesday trading.

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