Google Desktop Search

John Battelle writes about the importance of Google’s Windows-only desktop search application:

With this launch, Google is focusing on placing a desktop application on your computer that *makes your browser seem smarter.* The browser (IE only for now) becomes the interface front end to a major Google incursion into the PC hard drive, a space that heretofore has been owned by Microsoft. Google isn’t competing with Microsoft on the browser front – that would be madness. It’s competing with Microsoft on its own terms and its own turf: by integrating the desktop into the web browsing experience. More specifically, but integrating it *into the Google experience* as understood through search.

This is the part that’s important: As far as the user is concerned, Google’s Desktop Search seamlessly integrates your hard drive into “Desktop” becomes another tab, right next to “Web”, “Images”, and the like (your data stays on your hard drive, of course, but to most mere mortals, it might seem like in fact it lives “out there on the web.”)

Danny Sullivan has a detailed review.

Dave Winer suggests that “an open architecture desktop search app is a requirement. I must be able to write a plug-in that teaches it how to index formats it doesn’t understand.”

David Galbriath adds:

With desktop search Google now has an application that makes it much more likely that you will continue to use their search engine.

They have created a switching cost – after spending several hours indexing your drive, you are less likely to switch to a different service.

Although there is a lot of hoo hah about desktop search, its still amazing that it took till 2004 for searching your own machine to become a mainstream app, when you have been able to search thousands of other computers around the world, within an instant, since the last millennium.

Expect Microsoft to counter aggressively, their business is built around owning the command line or desktop and they will likely build in indexing out of the box, meaning that Google desktop users will end up with two or more indexes.

Whatever Microsoft do, Google have shown the way forward, their desktop search makes your desktop just one more search tab. It brings your desktop to the web rather than the web to the desktop and this seems like a much more logical UI experience.

Dave Pollard looks at Google as a Personal Content Management tool:

Like everything Google, it’s simple, familiar and intuitive. It’s great at finding things, as long as there aren’t too many results — I’m not convinced that the ‘relevance’ ranking will work on a desktop, so Google needs to think through both the ranking algorithm, and the possible addition of filtering mechanisms. The other aspects of PCM — aggregating and moving documents, and document editing — Google hasn’t yet broached. But I suspect it’s on their radar screen, and if they can start to move into these area while keeping the simple, familiar, intuitive disclipline of their existing work, they might not only replace Microsoft as the ‘owners’ of the desktop application, but finally bridge the chasm between the still-small proportion of power users and the large majority of bewildered, marginal users.

What’s also really intriguing about Google Desktop is the possibility of being able (with appropriate permissioning) to do searches of other people’s computers. In business, I can appreciate that people might not want others accessing documents directly from their machines. But this tool provides the promise of being able to find out just that what you’re looking on is on someone else’s machine, so that you know who to call. That, to me, has enormous potential. Imagine Google Desktop being able to search for something on the computers of everyone in the company, or even everyone in the industry! This could be the start of an awesome, and amazingly simple, Expertise Finder tool.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.