Microsoft signs MSN Toolbar deal with Sun

People who download Sun's Java Runtime Environment will be offered the MSN Toolbar as well, through a search distribution deal Microsoft has struck with Sun, the companies will announce Monday.

Starting Monday, when Internet Explorer users download the Java Runtime Environment, they'll be offered as part of the setup process a download of the MSN Toolbar. The toolbar includes a search field and news headlines. The Java Runtime Environment is the engine that runs Java programs on computers.

Microsoft hopes the agreement will boost the use of its search offering and in turn attract more advertisers to Live Search, said Angus Norton, senior director of Live Search for Microsoft. While advertisers say that they get good results by advertising on Live Search, they also say they are looking for a bigger audience, he said. "They're looking for volume," Norton said.

Sun signed a similar deal with Google in 2005 to distribute the Google Toolbar via the Java Runtime Environment. The new deal with Microsoft eliminates the Google deal in the United States only. Google also has a similar deal with Adobe. As part of that deal, when users download Adobe Reader, they have the option to get the Google toolbar.

Microsoft also has distribution deals with computer makers Lenovo and HP to preload Live Search tools onto computers.

In addition to the distribution deals, Microsoft is investing in ways to improve its search offering so that more people will want to use it. The company has also tried out some new ideas, such as offering rebates to users who buy products after searching for them on Live Search, through the Cashback program.

Despite its best efforts, Microsoft continues to lose search market share, primarily to Google. An August research report from Hitwise showed Google with 70 percent of online search queries and Microsoft in third place with 5 percent. That's down from 10 percent for MSN in January 2007, according to Hitwise.

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