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3/14/2006
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Is Search An Experience?

When you search for something on the Internet you probably go to Google, Yahoo!, or MSN. But how do you search for something on your desktop computer? Lately, I have been using Google Desktop Search and it is amazing. I have also looked at Microsoft's desktop search and it does a good job, too. But I wonder if desktop and Internet (or intranet) search need to be integrated? Certainly this is what the big search competitors are saying, but does anyone care?

For example, when Microsoft announced an upgrade for its desktop search the press release said: "IT managers can customize Windows Desktop Search and the MSN Search Toolbar to allow users to easily switch the scope of their search experience from their desktop to the Web or to a corporate intranet, all from one ubiquitous search box."

Google said almost the same things when it announced a desktop search product for enterprises and said "Google Desktop Search for Enterprise also offers full integration with the Google Search Appliance and Google Mini to deliver search results and convenient one-stop-searching from the desktop, intranet and Google.com."

I tend to think of these tasks as separate functions meeting different needs. Searching on the Internet implies I am researching a subject or maybe I am shopping for a product. I search the intranet to see if anyone else can help me with a project or maybe I need to find a corporate policy.

Searching my desktop usually means I lost a file or I am looking for an email message I archived last month. I am struggling to think of a scenario where I might first search the Internet for something and then use the same query on my desktop computer or vice versa. Maybe it's because I just started using a desktop search product that I am still working this way, but I don't think so.

Then there is all of this talk about the search "experience". Uh-huh. I don't know about you, but I find most search interfaces to be pretty simple. Isn't that the whole point? I type in a word or two and click a button. Granted, moving among collections on the Internet, like Google does between web, images, and news, is pretty darn convenient, but that just seems to be a better way to search the Internet. Microsoft talks about "familiar interfaces" but how familiar does it have to be? It's just a search box. The first indication that you can search for something is the word "Search" next to the empty box. Is that an experience?

Microsoft will be bundling search capabilities into Vista. For enterprises looking to improve how information is found does this feature in Vista play into your thinking about intranet search?  Because Vista has a good search engine built-in will you now want to extend that experience and use Microsoft search technologies for your intranet?

Looking at it another way, if your company deployed a Google Search Appliance would that influence how you handle desktop search? Would you disable the Vista search in favor of Google Desktop Search because you use a Google Search Appliance?

What do you think?

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