Sun will be "uniquely advantaged" by its inter-operability agreement with Microsoft, Sun CEO Scott McNealy has said. But when that wonderful advantage actually appears is anyone's guess.

The two warring rivals finally agreed this month to settle their legal disputes, with Microsoft agreeing to pay Sun about $2 billion. A vital element of that agreement was a ten-year bilateral agreement to promote product interoperability.

The question among resellers at Sun's iForce partner conference though was when the deal is going to amount to something solid.

Scott Zahl, VP of marketing and vendor relations at GE Access, a distributor for about 800 Sun resellers, said he believes the changes will be evident in product upgrades, such as Solaris 10, which is due by the end of the year. But that's still guesswork.

McNealy acknowledged that there's no guarantee the deal will work out, but he said it's off to a promising start and that he's in ongoing talks with Microsoft. A key objective is making StarOffice, Sun's office productivity suite, "even more inter-operable" with Microsoft Office, he said.

Other important goals include improving inter-operability between the Java Desktop System and Windows, Solaris and Windows servers, and bringing the company's respective Web services architectures, .Net and Java Web Services, into closer alignment.

All great in theory but worth nothing until it happens.