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Google's Search For Dominance

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2004; 9:47 AM

Google Inc. unveiled a new search tool yesterday that's capable of scanning both the Internet and the files on a personal computer, beating Microsoft Corp. out of the gates and significantly raising the stakes in the search-engine wars.

The Associated Press didn't mince words about Google's new tool: "Google's Desktop Search application, technically released as a preview yesterday for Windows XP and 2000 PCs, uses the same algorithms that have made its Internet search engine fast, accurate and popular. At the same time, it makes Windows' slow, built-in search tool eat dirt," the AP wrote. Ouch.
The Associated Press via The Seattle Times: Google's Fast New Tool Eats Windows' Leisurely Lunch

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"This is the newest extension of the browser wars," Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox told the San Jose Mercury News. "Microsoft has to be worried." The newspaper noted that Google's "announcement was widely viewed as a direct challenge to software maker Microsoft, whose operating system controls most of the world's personal computers and which has vowed to aggressively challenge Google's dominance of the search industry."
The San Jose Mercury News: Google Unveils Personal Search (Registration required)

More from The Washington Post on Google's match point against Microsoft: "Google Desktop Search offers what Microsoft has been trying to develop for more than a year -- the ability to let people enter one search term and see files relevant to that topic from both their computers and the Web displayed together. 'This gives Google a huge first-mover advantage in desktop search,' said Charlene Li, principal search analyst for Forrester Research, a market research firm. She predicted the software would be especially popular with heavy computer users, who store many files on their machines and need help sifting through them. 'It's ironic that until now, it's been easier to search 6 billion documents on the Internet than it has been to find a single file on your hard drive,' Li said."
The Washington Post: Google's New Tool Brings Search Home (Registration required)

The Los Angeles Times noted that "Google and Microsoft are moving more aggressively onto each other's turf. Microsoft is planning to release its own Web and desktop search engines by the end of the year in an effort to head off up-and-comers like Google. Longhorn, the version of Windows expected in late 2006 at the earliest, is expected to let users search the Web and the contents of their computers without having to even open a browser. So Google is trying to establish a beachhead on the PC desktop first."
The Los Angeles Times: Google Offers To Search Your Desktop (Registration required)

The Bigger Picture

But the Microsoft-Google rivalry is just one piece of the larger struggle over search. Google latest "move is expected to unleash a flurry of similar products from rivals seeking to create new territory for advertising," the Los Angeles Times said. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Some experts believe the new Google software may foreshadow a day when Web-oriented programs become more tightly integrated with the computer desktop, creating a new and potentially more useful layer of functions between Windows and the computer user. 'The question isn't, "Will this make Windows irrelevant," because it won't,' said search expert John Battelle, who is working on a book about the search business. 'The question is, does this point to an approach to operating systems and interfaces that supercedes Windows in such a way that Windows just becomes an important part of a stack?'"
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Google Tops Microsoft With New PC Search Tool

The Wall Street Journal also noted the broader context: "With Desktop Search, Google is beating its biggest Internet rivals to the punch. Microsoft has promised new desktop search software by year end and Yahoo Inc. has suggested it has similar plans, without confirming any specifics. Ask Jeeves Inc. has said it will make available test versions of its desktop search software this month. Time Warner Inc.'s America Online unit this week is adding desktop search functions to a customized browser it has released for users to test. Microsoft said its 'search technology efforts will compete through innovation' and declined to comment specifically on any increased competition from Google."
The Wall Street Journal: Google Software to Search PCs Takes Aim at Microsoft's Turf (Subscription required)

Ditto The Boston Globe: "Other companies have launched desktop search products. This spring, Spanish Internet company Terra Lycos introduced a free toolbar product for the Microsoft Web browser with a built in hard drive indexer. Copernic Technologies Inc. of Canada also rolled out a free desktop search program. Apple Computer Inc. has said that it will add upgraded desktop search to the next version of its Mac OS X operating system, code named Tiger."
The Boston Globe: Google Search Program Gets Jump on Microsoft

CNET's News.com reported more details on America Online's search efforts: "AOL's desktop search was not developed in-house but is powered by a third-party's technology, according to a source familiar with the plans. While the source would not reveal AOL's desktop search partner, this person said it was not Google. The desktop search tool is currently being offered as a feature within a test version of a standalone Web browser that AOL is developing, the source said. AOL spokeswoman Anne Bentley confirmed that the desktop search tool is being tested alongside the AOL Browser but declined to elaborate further."
CNET's News.com: AOL Launches New Portal, Tests Desktop Search

There's a lot of money to be made here, after all. "There's billions at stake now," Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch.com, told the Los Angeles Times. "The battlefields are expanding."

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