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Sun to Distribute MSN Toolbar with Java

We have writtenalot about Microsoft’s struggle to gain back market share from Google in the search engine market. Microsoft’s latest attempt at this is a distribution deal with Sun. Starting today, Sun will distribute the MSN Toolbar to users in the U.S. who download the Java Runtime Engine for Internet Explorer. Given that Java is installed on virtually every computer, this new deal should give Microsoft’s search market share a bit of a boost, as the MSN Toolbar uses Live Search as its default search engine.

Favorable Business Terms

We asked Sun for a statement about this deal and Eric Klein, Sun’s VP of Java marketing, told us that “Sun carefully evaluates including value-added applications with the JRE on a number of levels – including business, technical, and user experience.” Sun, according to Klein, found that Microsoft’s toolbar provided a “great user experience.” However, Klein also noted that “this agreement has favorable business terms for Sun.”

Better User Experience?

It is arguable whether Live Search really provides a better user experience than Google Search (though the MSN Toolbar might actually be more useful for mainstream users than the Google Toolbar), but we can’t help but wonder if the “favorable business terms” took precedence over the user experience here.

Market Share

It will probably take a few months before we can really say if this deal will really boost Live Search’s market share, but according to Brad Goldberg, the general manager of Microsoft’s Search Business Group, about 35% of all search queries on Live Search come from toolbars, the address bar, or search forms built into the browser. This indicates that this deal with Sun does indeed have the potential to drive more traffic to Microsoft’s search engine, but it remains to be seen if users will go along with this switch.

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