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Women in Tech

Desktop Search a Go for Google

By Jay Lyman
Mar 7, 2005 10:14 AM PT

Google formally launched its free desktop search software today, moving deeper into waters already crowded with competitors.

Desktop Search a Go for Google

The free, downloadable Google Desktop, previously available in beta form, will allow Internet search-style queries of the desktop, including scanning through a range of computer files, e-mail messages, browser history and AOL instant messages. Google also touted the application's ability to recover accidentally deleted or misplaced data. It will allow users to perform full-text searches of PDFs and find other information in music, image, video and other files.

The Internet search leader -- which is trying to head off desktop search dominance by existing players such as Copernic and newcomers such as Microsoft and Yahoo -- also added support for browsers and e-mail clients including Firefox, Thunderbird and Netscape.

Invitation to Developers

In a move to promote development of additional applications and plug-ins for its desktop search, Google said it is providing application programming interfaces (APIs) that will allow deeper and newer desktop searches of data such as Trillian chats and scanned images.

Jonathan Spira, Basex CEO and chief analyst, told TechNewsWorld that Google is eager to keep its competition, particularly Microsoft, from establishing mind and market share in desktop search. Microsoft has indicated it plans to include combined Internet and desktop search in its next-generation Windows operating system, Longhorn.

"Why did Google go to the desktop in the first place?" Spira asked. "The answer is there is a sense of concern about Microsoft's ability and plans to allow searching on the Web as well as on PCs with Longhorn."

Full-On File Search

Jonathan Rosenberg, Google vice president of product management, likened the company's desktop search utility to "a photographic memory of everything you've seen with your computer, right at your fingertips," according to a statement.

The data-recovery features are capable of connecting users to text they have deleted or misplaced in Word documents and PowerPoint presentations. The tool also uses cached snapshots of Web page and document information so users can access the information without being connected to the Internet.

"Google Desktop Search brings the power of Google search to information on the computer hard drive," Rosenberg said.

Synergizing Search

Spira said Google's desktop search was both a counter to competitors' efforts and a natural next step for the company, which has achieved popularity and profitability by linking online advertising to its Internet search.

"Desktop search is a logical next step for Google in terms of providing a more federated search," he said. Spira said although companies such as Copernic have managed to sell desktop search software -- which also works with alternative e-mail applications such as Thunderbird and Eudora and provides users with color-coded results -- the market for desktop search is now limited mostly to individual consumers.

"It's a hot area, but it's also very under the radar because it's not an enterprise buy," Spira said. "It's an individual download."

Ill Use Considered

Spira said that since most people, including enterprise users, tend to store information on their desktop PCs, desktop search is likely to become a bigger market.

But just as Google and other Internet search engines have been used to spread computer worms, desktop search has security implications.

Spira pointed out that although the ability to access deleted files and text may be a benefit to users, the fact that any file indexed -- including password-protected files if the user allows it -- is searchable could cause security problems.

However, Spira indicated the danger is mitigated by the fact that someone searching those files would typically need physical access to the machine.


Women in Tech
Which technology has the strongest positive or negative impact on race relations?
Smartphone cameras, by holding people accountable.
Twitter, by reporting news as it happens.
Facebook, by providing a platform for discussing the issues.
YouTube, by exposing viewers to other cultures.
Twitter, by fueling antagonisms.
Facebook, by spreading fake news.