Google grabs desktop search from Microsoft

Competition: A shot is fired across the bow of the software giant.

This week’s release by Google of its new Deskbar search tool breaks a few windowpanes on the Windows desktop.

The Google Deskbar is a free software download that appears as a search box in the Windows taskbar at the bottom right of most Windows-based PCs.

Users enter queries into the search box and results are automatically displayed in a small pane that rises above the Deskbar in the bottom right corner of the desktop screen and overlays a corner of the application they’re using.

Google has managed to beat Microsoft to the punch with this new tool. It allows searching without Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser – or any browser for that matter.

It is easy to think that this is no big deal, but I think it is a huge and very significant development for Google to have done this. I downloaded this Google Desktop the first day it was available from its Google Labs page at labs.google.com and since then it has transformed how I use search on a daily basis.

The Deskbar does collect information about the number of times you use each of its features when the Feedback Statistics option is turned on. By counting uses of specific features, Google gets an idea of which parts of the Google Deskbar users find most helpful. However, no personal information about you (name, address, phone number, etc.) or your searches is collected. And you can turn tracking off using the options dialog box.
Also note that Google Deskbar checks once a day to see if a new update is available. This check is recorded by Google and cannot be disabled. In addition to ensuring you always have the latest version of the application, this connection to Google lets us know approximately how many active Google Deskbars are in use and open in default browsers.

Google Desktop is even more convenient than Google’s Tool Bar. I am able to search anytime from within any other program I am working in. I very often need to research something for a project that I am doing and for this tool to be available outside of the browser is fantastic. It saves me minutes and extra button clicking with the mouse that just adds steps to any project.

Deskbar-loving fans will think this is a cool tool. If the Deskbar takes up too much space, you can go to the “Options” dialog and turn on the checkbox that says “Resize search box automatically.” That makes the search box shrink when you are not using it and grow when you are using it. That should work even if the Windows taskbar is locked.

My wish list is never totally satisfied though. My mind races with more things that this desktop search box could do. To search my whole computer and whole LAN network, the files on my computer and across my local network, it would need to be indexed by keyword just like Google does with billions of webpage files. I believe that this is the core agenda for Microsoft’s new operating system Longhorn and Google is close to beating them to the desktop with this new Deskbar.

It seems like all Google would have to do next is offer me an upgrade with my approval to install a database with a new keyword search code in this desktop search box that would enable the private indexing of all the files on my computer and offer that as an easy to use service from my desktop.
If Google can accomplish this feat then it has stolen the whole can of search in one swipe and has broken a very big Window in Redmond. The advantages that Microsoft has coming with Longhorn would be swept away and thus would give Microsoft added incentive to make a huge financial take over bid of Google. Google is a very free spirit, but the right amount of cash may cause a change of heart on Google’s side.

Google now has a huge hammer over Microsoft and could easily send Microsoft crashing down on its plans for MSN Search and Longhorn’s desktop search angle that would justify an upgrade to Longhorn.
The question that keeps lingering in my mind is whether Microsoft would even allow this Google Deskbar Search tool to function properly or at all in Longhorn.

The Google Deskbar results pop-up window does, unfortunately, remind me of the annoying ad pop-ups that Adware programs like Gator have been using for years. It looks and operates like those ads that exploited the Microsoft Windows Messenger feature on the desktop. The Google Deskbar uses IE’s rendering engine to generate this browserless browser view.
For now I like what Google has done with this Deskbar and they once again make searching easier and with less clutter along the way. Microsoft has a formidable challenge in it’s effort to overcome Google’s domination of the search space and now the desktop space.

For the fun of it, here is a link to Google’s playland – called Google Labs – at labs.google.com to find all their cool tech toys.

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