Microsoft launches software for searching desktops
Tuesday, December 14th 2004, 10:42 am
News On 6
SEATTLE (AP) _ Microsoft Corp. has become the second tech-industry giant to offer software for searching through computer desktops _ a technology it claims is vastly superior to that launched by Google two months ago.
``We wanted to take this effort to the next level,'' said Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's corporate vice president in charge of its MSN online division. ``We provide an incredibly fast, precise way to answer your questions.''
The free software _ included in the new MSN Toolbar Suite and compatible with the Windows XP and Windows 2000 operating systems _ is designed to let computer users find the information they're looking for without scrolling through thousands of e-mails or file folders. Instead, they will be able to search for keywords located in virtually any type of file, from e-mails to instant messages to PDFs, just as easily as they conduct searches on the Internet.
After getting feedback from users in the United States, where the software was released Monday, Microsoft expects to launch the Toolbar Suite globally early next year.
Desktop-searching has become an incredibly competitive field. Two months ago, Google Inc. launched a version of desktop-searching that it described as the ``photographic memory'' of the computer, able to recall Web pages, e-mails and other files viewed by the user. Yahoo last week announced plans to launch its version in January; Ask Jeeves plans to announce a service this week; and AOL is also expected to offer desktop-searching.
Mehdi said Microsoft's service differs from Google's in important ways. First, it allows the searches to be performed in the program running at the time _ for example, if a user conducts a search while using Microsoft Outlook, the company's e-mail and calendar program, the results will come back in Outlook.
Unlike Google, Microsoft's service isn't Web-based, and doesn't include previously visited Web pages in its search results. Mehdi said that helps allow for more powerful desktop searches _ including searches of Outlook calendar or contacts files and others that Google doesn't, such as PDFs.
And Microsoft's provides greater privacy protection, Medhi said, by searching through information based on each user who logs in. If one person uses a computer for personal banking, the next person using that machine won't be able to access the sensitive data, he said.
Google has indicated it plans to add similar capabilities to its program.
Charlene Li, an analyst with Forrester Research, said Microsoft's service is more powerful than Google's, but may also be less intuitive. Someone looking for apple pie recipes would have to conduct separate searches to find recipes on the Internet in addition to recipes on his or her hard drive, she noted.
``Google is a little cleaner,'' she said. ``But in MSN I could be pulling up something like apple pie, and sorting the responses by date or by type of file, video, PDF, et cetera. There's a lot more control that Microsoft is giving, but it's going to take people some time to figure out how to use it.''
Companies are pressing to offer desktop-searching capabilities as a way to retain loyal users. People who use Microsoft products to search through their desktops are more likely to keep using Microsoft products to search the Internet _ and to visit advertising-sponsored Web sites and services, such as Hotmail and Messenger, where MSN makes its money.
``This is not even a mass market product at this point,'' Li said. ``It's way too early to be talking about industry leadership.''