Though they were once bitter rivals, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is partnering with Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA) in search. And you thought an Obama administration signaled change? Wow.

Other titles I considered for this article:

  • New study finds cats and mice cohabitating in increasing numbers.
  • KFC embraces open source movement, posts "original recipe" to the Web.
  • NASA scientists reverse Galileo, find that Sun really does orbit Earth.
  • Bill O'Reilly leaves Fox News to join MSNBC as senior political analyst.

I mean, if Microsoft and Sun can partner, anything's possible, right? Rewind to 2004 with me. That's when Microsoft spent roughly $2 billion to settle a long standing legal dispute over Mr. Softy's alleged co-opting of the Java platform for its own purposes. "Embrace and extend," as former chairman Bill Gates used to call the strategy.

This time, Microsoft will pay not for misdeeds but for access. Sun will promote a Microsoft toolbar for Internet Explorer to U.S. netizens who download Java software, according to an Associated Press report. Built-in gadgets will make searching via the Live.com engine easier and expose users to more MSN content.

Think of it as a land grab in Microsoft's battle to stop the bleeding in its tussle with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and former finace Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) over search market share.

And it comes at an interesting time: Sun had a similar deal with Google, which is expiring, AP confirmed. Microsoft, meanwhile, saw its search share slip in August. Google, IAC's (NASDAQ:IACI) Ask Network, and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL gained.

Change is in the air, Fool. But is this change you can believe in? Sure, if you believe that rearranging furniture somehow creates a new living room. Or if rearranging the deck chairs would have spared the Titanic.

Good luck, Mr. Softy. You still need it.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Google at the time of publication. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy shines over Wall Street.

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