15 October 2004 Search engine colossus Google has released a desktop tool that allows users to seek out information from their hard drives in a matter of seconds.
Google Desktop Search scans the hard drive for a variety of common file formats, such as plain text, Microsoft Office documents, and America Online Instant Messenger chat files. These are then presented in much the same way as a Google web search.
“This tool quite simply fits with Google’s overall mission of helping to organise the world’s information,” said Dave Girouard general manager for the enterprise at Google.
Some analysts believe that Google’s tool will be a catalyst in the process of integration between Web-oriented programs and the computer desktop.
The concept of desktop searching has been around for decades: in the 1980’s Lotus had its Magellan DOS file indexer and viewer. But the concept has never successfully established itself in Windows environments. Indeed, the searching for files in applications such as Outlook has been a laborious task.
But now the idea is enjoying a revival. Start-ups such as X1 and Blinx have sprung up, offering dual web and desktop searching. And established search engines such as Lycos and Ask Jeeves have made tentative steps to make it easier to find files stored on hard drives.
But the big competition is likely to come from Microsoft. The software giant has been rumoured to be looking at breaking Google’s stranglehold over the search market, and expects to ship its own product some time in 2005.