Microsoft has done a deal with Sun where its search toolbar is distributed with the Java runtime. The deal only applies to US Internet Explorer users who download the JRE. Previously Sun distributed the Google toolbar with Java.
The Star Office aspect is interesting because it may (or may not) be significant for Google’s overall strategy for productivity software.
Google has its own office suite, one that works online. So why promote a competitor? Well, Star Office is a traditional desktop suite that has more features and works offline. It is also one in the eye for Microsoft and might inhibit a few Office 2007 sales. I had wondered whether Google would try some deep integration with Star Office, where you could seamlessly open and save documents to Google storage on the Internet.
Maybe Google has now decided that Star Office muddies its message, which is a pure Internet play for office applications, with offline features coming via Gears. When combined with the speed of Chrome, this has plenty of potential.
Alternatively, Star Office is just being upgraded and will be back soon. Or perhaps Sun and Google fell out over the terms. Now that Google is so dominant in search, users visit Google and get the toolbar anyway; it doesn’t need Sun’s support. All speculation; Google has yet to comment, as far as I know.
Let me add that I hate this method of promoting software, where you download one thing and get another by default. It’s called foistware.