Continuing on with its strategy to build search share by gaining distribution partners, Microsoft has landed a deal to have its MSN Toolbar offered to anyone in the United States who downloads Java for Internet Explorer.
The deal begins as of 8am Pacific time today. Those installing Java into Internet Explorer for the first time will get a prompt to download the MSN Toolbar and make Live Search the default choice for their browser, as part of the Java installation process. As for those with Java already, the next time a Java update is issued, they’ll get the same prompts from the Java update program. Nothing is supposed to be changed or installed automatically — only if a user gives the OK.
This is the second major distribution deal Microsoft has nabbed from a competitor since the summer. The first was a deal to install the Live Search Toolbar on HP computers, set to take effect in January 2009. Oddly, rather than push the Live Search Toolbar, Microsoft is using its MSN brand as part of this deal. A sign that MSN is back? Or just more brand confusion? I have a follow-up question to Microsoft about why that choice was made.
Microsoft didn’t disclose how much it is paying for the distribution. It said Java had over 100 million downloads last year worldwide and is installed on over 91 percent of computers worldwide. The deal is only for Internet Explorer downloaded in the United States, so distribution will be less than those figures but still pretty significant.
Potentially, the deal could give Microsoft major inroads toward building share, given how many computers use Java. However, I suspect many will be put-off by a prompt to change search providers, if they already use Google. More important, even if defaults are changed, many will still seek out Google by habit. Once there, Google will flag them to switch back to Google (see Microsoft Live & Yahoo Push For Firefox Users, Plus Revisiting The IE7 Search Battle). Plus those running the Google Updater (which you get from installing one of various Google programs) may get a warning (that some find hard to notice) from the Google Search Settings Notifier that it may have prevented any defaults from being changed.
As always, time will tell. If we see share rise significantly in about six months, Microsoft may have booked a winner.
Postscript: Digital Inspiration and ReadWriteWeb cover how StarOffice, which Java-maker Sun pushes, is no longer a part of the Google Pack bundle. That feels tit-for-tat, that if Microsoft is going to do a distribution deal with Sun, then Google’s cutting its own distribution deal with Sun. Also see more discussion on Techmeme.
Postscript 2: I’ve downloaded and reinstalled Java but so far, no prompt for Microsoft’s products. It’s also interesting to see how Sun handles the bundling. If you hit the Java site using Internet Explorer, you get sent to download from this IE-specific page. Go to it from Firefox, and you hit this page. My assumption is each page has its own bundle partners (from The Register, it looks like Yahoo is the Firefox partner.
Meanwhile, the Seattle PI notes that Google has been the Java partner since 2005. Microsoft had mentioned this, too, but I’ve never — ever — seen Java prompt me to install a Google Toobar or switch to Google in either way. And when I tested this before the announcement, there still was no prompting. Still, I guess this was the case. And why did Sun go with Microsoft? Reports the PI:
Klein said Sun had “made a change in direction.”
The article also notes that the StarOffice-Google bundle deal has expired today.
Postscript 3: On the installation issue, Microsoft tells me to get the toolbar, these are the requirements:
- Windows XP SP2 and above
- IE must be the default browser
- You can’t already have the MSN Toolbar installed
- You need to be in the US