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Ballmer and McNealy - friends again

When Sun Microsystems chairman and chief executive officer Scott McNealy and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer exchanged ice hockey...

When Sun Microsystems chairman and chief executive officer Scott McNealy and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer exchanged ice hockey jerseys on stage on Friday morning, they brought two of the industry's most visible adversaries together in a landmark long-term partnership.

It took the companies about a year to come to an agreement. "In an environment that is litigious, it is hard to have open discussions," said Ballmer. "Everybody has to get comfortable with what they are willing to share."

The companies were close to a deal in December, but there was a need for a little more "creativity", Ballmer said. Sun and Microsoft took a break from the negotiations in late December, and last month Microsoft was distracted by the European Commission's antitrust decision against the company.

Both Ballmer and McNealy stressed the deal is not about the Microsoft payments, but about business opportunity, and both companies expect significant revenue to result from their collaboration.

The Red Wings ice hockey jerseys are a symbol of McNealy's and Ballmer's Michigan roots. The two have been friends for a long time, having grown up in the same city and attended Harvard University and Stanford University together. But then their friendship went sour with Ballmer at Microsoft and McNealy heading Sun Microsystems.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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