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Google Updates Desktop: MSFT Will Take Note

By - March 06, 2005

GoogdesktopI can’t write a full review here (I’m on a Mac…), but tonight Google takes the beta off its Google Destkop Search (this link is to my initial coverage, including a lot of ramblings on the implications).

Taking off beta is no big deal, right?

Well, no. It’s a pretty big deal, because Google is adding a couple of things in release 1.0 which 1/make a lot of sense, and 2/will stir up a pot o’ press reaction, all of which will have some variant of this headline: “Google Plans End Run Around Microsoft.”

In short, the new version of Google Desktop will include APIs for any Windows application developer, letting anyone plug their application into GDS (ie, iTunes, chat, or…MSFT Office, for example). Developers can access these APIs to do two things – one, to make sure their documents are indexed by GDS, and appear as searched by GDS in any way they care to. And second, to plug Google search, all of Google search, into their apps.

In short, if you are Windows developer, you can now plug Google (yup, all of Google search, not just desktop) into your application. Isn’t integrated search what MSFT is promising with Longhorn? Why, yes it is. But that’s two years out. This is ready now.

So is this Google starting an all out war for the hearts and mind of Windows developers, and for the search habits of Windows users? Hell yes to the latter, but on the former, not yet, but it’s sure as hell interesting. When I asked Nikhil Bahtla, GDS product manager, about this, he used Wordperfect as an example. Nice choice. I doubt MSFT will be busy working on a Word or Office plugin any time soon.

But wait, there is more. The new GDS will also create a floating “search box” independent of any browser, which you can place anywhere you want on top of Windows. Hmmmm. This sounds very, er, post browser, very…Web 2.0. See my musings on how web-based apps are starting to do to Windows what Windows did to DOS here….and man, this sure feels a lot like a paving stone down that particular road.

Given all this, I had to ask the Googlers I spoke to about the Microsoft issue, and they, as usual, ducked the question, saying they were merely providing features that Google’s users were asking for. Certainly that’s true. But certainly, it’s also true that this release will cause no shortage of consternation up in Redmond.

Once you have APIs and desktop software like this, you need to create a major push to support developers. Will Google be doing this, I asked? No comment, at least not at this point. But expect it. It will be, of course, what “Google’s customers will be asking for.”

In any case, read more about the news here (only a ZDnet story now, but by Monday morning…). This is certainly getting interesting. Release in extended entry.

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DRAFT 15

GOOGLE LAUNCHES DESKTOP SEARCH 1.0



Extending Desktop Search to PDF, Music, Video, and Image Files;

Supports Firefox and Netscape; Available in Chinese and Korean



MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – March 7, 2005 – Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced the formal launch of Google Desktop Search, a free downloadable application which enables users to search for information on their own computers. Previously in beta, today’s 1.0 release adds search over the full text of PDFs and the meta-information stored with music, image and video files. Additional enhancements include support for the Firefox and Netscape browsers, Thunderbird and Netscape email clients and new Chinese and Korean language interfaces.

“Google Desktop Search brings the power of Google search to information on the computer hard drive,” said Jonathan Rosenberg, vice president of Product Management at Google. “It’s like having a photographic memory of everything you’ve seen with your computer, right at your fingertips. We’re proud to take Google Desktop Search out of beta, and we will continue to extend the utility of desktop search for users worldwide.”

In addition to searching a wide range of computer files and email, Google is the first desktop search tool to access the full text of web page history and the only one to search AOL instant messages. Google Desktop Search can also be used to recover accidentally deleted or misplaced information. For instance, a user who unintentionally deletes a Word document or PowerPoint presentation can use the tool to find the text stored in Google Desktop Search. All results are accompanied by cached snapshots of each web page and document so users can access information even if they’re not connected to the web or if a document has been deleted.

Google Desktop Search will also provide application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable software developers to create new and innovative applications using the desktop search product. Plug-ins developed with these APIs will be made available for download at http://desktop.google.com/plugins, enabling users to search new content types such as Trillian chats and the full-text of scanned images, such as faxes. More information on the Desktop Search APIs can be found on the web at http://desktop.google.com/apis.

Additional enhancements to Google Desktop 1.0 include a free-standing search box that users can place anywhere on their desktop; making access to desktop and web information faster and easier than before. In addition to enabling users to block HTTPS web pages, Google Desktop Search now also excludes all password-protected documents from Microsoft Word and Excel.

Google Desktop Search is available at http://desktop.google.com. It is currently available for Windows XP and Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above. It requires 500MB of disk space, a minimum of 128MB of RAM, and a 400MHz (or faster) Pentium processor is recommended.

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  • http://www.kbcafe.com Randy Charles Morin

    Somethings missing, like a business model. How do MSN, Yahoo and Google make money from the ad-free search APIs?

  • http://www.br1an.net/indexBlog.html Brian

    How do MSN, Yahoo and Google make money from the ad-free search APIs?

    /me glances at the stock price

  • MikeM

    Watching Brin and Page dissect the Gates empire brick by brick. An exaggeration but it is taking that look. MSFT just takes the punches. Gates comes out with his boyish grin and seems to say “ah shucks”.
    We are in an interesting age. Nice post John.

  • z

    Ad-free API is the bait. Give developers all they need. They would sure use them. Classic Microsoftie approach.

  • http://blog.unitedheroes.net jr

    I just hope that future developers make that sort of integration an optional part of their future applications. I’m still wary about ANY desktop search for my own exceedingly paranoid reasons.

  • John Hemsath

    John,
    We met at IDG. I worked at IMS and you were running the standard. Like to discuss online publishing re: the 030605 SJMN article.

    My apologies to all for using this forum but I couldn’t find any other way to ping John.
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  • Derek Leverington

    I’m gravely concerned about what happens when spyware gets written with these kind of APIs built in. With the general slack level of user sophistication when it comes to monitoring these kinds of threats, it can just be a matter of time until spyware is using the the Google API’s to report on all manner of sensitive information off user machines. All nicely indexed.

    Yikes.

  • http://blog.aqute.com James MacAonghus

    I’m not sure about John’s take on this; there is too much focus on Google’s desire to win the desktop, take on Windows, create an O/S and all that. Given John’s access to Google insiders, I am loathe to suggest it is all exaggerated, but there is little actual evidence for such theories. I have posted on this here: http://aqute.typepad.com/aquteresearch/2005/03/google_desktop_.html . Yes, GDS is nice, and Microsoft will take notice (they already have, of course), but the event must be viewed in proportion.

  • Tom
  • http://www.platinax.co.uk Brian

    In the current environment of lack of communication, lack of transparency, lack of response, and lack of accessibility, I simply do not trust Google enough to want to use it’s desktop search – and I certainly wouldn’t want to plug into the API with it.

    Google search has been cracked and broken since Feb 5th. Yet the company has made no comment on this, other than a post in WebMasterWorld inviting companies to send e-mails if they feel they not being listed for their own names for no good reason needs checking out.

    Also, autolink – the webmaster concerns are clearly there – Marissa May says she’s listening, but rolling out expansion anyway.

    Google cloaking – well, did you read that sorry debacle at Threadwatch?

    Google is fast losing trust among webmasters. If they lose them, you can bet normal consumers will soon follow.

    What will Google be then?

  • Dave

    GDS has supported MS Office from the beginning.

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