Google Desktop Search Leaves Beta

Google moves its desktop search tool out of beta, formally launching version 1.0 with support for more browsers and file types and better protection of sensitive documents.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

March 7, 2005

3 Min Read

Google Inc. on Monday moved its desktop search tool out of beta, formally launching version 1.0 with support for more browsers and file types and better protection of sensitive documents.

Available for free download, Google Desktop Search improves upon the beta version with the ability to search over the full text of PDF files and the meta-information stored with music, image and video files.

In addition, the software supports Firefox and Netscape browsers, as well as Thunderbird and Netscape e-mail clients. The search tool is also available in Chinese and Korean languages.

In formally releasing its product, Google jumps ahead of rivals Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., which have similar free products still in beta. The companies, however, have taken slightly different approaches.

Microsoft's desktop search is part of its MSN Toolbar Suite, which also provides web search, a pop-up ad blocker and other capabilities. The tool is installed in Outlook, the Windows taskbar, Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer. Yahoo, on the other hand, is developing its tool through a partnership with desktop-search specialist X1 Technologies Inc.

America Online Inc. has announced plans for releasing a desktop search tool, licensing the technology from Copernic Technologies Inc. No release date has been set.

The interest in desktop search among the four web portal giants stems from the fact that most people looking to buy or research products on the web head to a search engine first, analysts say. Tying a person's PC to a shopping and entertainment portal through a desktop-search engine makes it more likely a shopper will start with that site.

The fact that Google is developing its product in-house while some of its other rivals are using partners indicates the level of importance Google has placed on desktop search, Whit Andrews, analyst for Gartner Inc. said. Using its own developers, Google can move quickly in adding features to meet changes in the market.

"This is something that Google is clearly treating as strategic," Andrews said. "We have to see (search) as Google's reason to exist. Anything that is search-related is part of the Google DNA."

Along with searching files and e-mail, Google Desktop Search also indexes all the web pages a person has viewed and places them in a cache on the PC's hard drive. In addition, the application enables users to block secure web pages, such as those used in online banking, and to exclude all password-protected Microsoft Word and Excel documents.

For developers, Google has provided application-programming interfaces for developing applications that leverage the search product. Google also provides plug-ins that add more capabilities to the product, such as searching the full-text of scanned images, such as faxes.

Google Desktop Search is available as a floating box that can be placed anywhere on a user's desktop.

Beyond competing for consumers with its portal rivals, Google's new product, as well as those from competitors, is a potential threat to makers of desktop search products for the enterprise, Andrews said. Those companies include ISYS Search Software, DTSearch Corp. and Enfish Software.

Those companies offer many features unavailable in consumer products, such as index management, interface customization, beefed-up security and a more robust search engine, Andrews said. Nevertheless, these companies do not have the brand recognition of Google, and are unknown to many corporations. The fact that Google is free is also a big draw.

"Enterprises would probably consider (Google) because they just don't know of an alternative," Andrews said.

Google Desktop Search is available for Windows XP and Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above.

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