The progress report that Microsoft and Sun Microsystems issued last week on their joint initiatives left some IT managers and analysts wondering when, or if, the long-term collaboration that the two companies have promised will produce any substantial results.

Executives from the once-bitter rivals cited collaborative efforts in areas such as Web services standards, identity management, storage and the optimisation of Windows for Sun hardware. But much of the work is ongoing, and Microsoft and Sun didn't provide details about any major technology pronouncements that may be forthcoming.

"My expectation on them producing deliverables is very low," said Emanuel Joseph, data centre manager at Lord, Abbett, a mutual funds firm. Joseph added that he thinks the long history of conflict between Microsoft and Sun will make it difficult for them to build interoperable products.

Stan Johnson, a LAN services manager for Multnomah County in Oregon, said he would like to have a single management console that he could use to populate or oversee end-user accounts in Microsoft's Active Directory and on Sun systems.

But Johnson remains sceptical about the long-term potential of the Sun-Microsoft alliance. "They're moving in the right direction, but I still think, right now, they have their own turf that they're interested in," he said. "So I'm not sure where it's going to pan out."

To be convinced that the alliance will produce results, Johnson said, he needs to see "a real product in hand that shows the collaboration," rather than just hear the vendors talk about their joint work.

Looking for meaningSeveral analysts said they heard nothing new in the first progress report that the two companies issued since their April announcement of a broad cooperation agreement, which also included a payment of nearly $2 billion from Microsoft to Sun to settle outstanding litigation between them.

Gartner analyst Tom Bittman said the update was issued with "a defensive rationale" to help the vendors prove that they're collaborating. Bittman said he has no doubts that they're working together against their primary competitor, IBM. But he added that he isn't sure it matters any more "because Sun's influence isn't nearly as strong as it used to be."