By Eric Auchard
Google Inc. unveils a computer and Web search tool on Monday using
self-updating navigation and personal information software that puts
it in more direct competition with Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL.
The creator of the world's most popular Web search system said it was
branching out beyond pure search to help users manage e-mail, instant
messages, news headlines and music.
Google Desktop 2, as the new search software is known, helps users
locate information stored on their own hard disk, on office network
drives they may use and on the Web. Details can be found at
The heart of the system is a tall, rectangular "sidebar" with a set of
panels that provide glimpses into the latest "live" information of
interest to the user. It actively learns from each move a user makes
to personalize what is featured.
"We really want to have people be able to sit back and watch the Web
come to them," Nikhil Bhatla, product manager of the Google Desktop
product, said, adding that: "We have tried to provide a lot of
information in a small amount of space."
Innovative features include a headline syndication system that adds
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds of frequently visited sites,
without any special user intervention. Aside from searching the Web,
Google will trawl Outlook e-mail and PC program data like Word, Excel,
Adobe PDFs and instant messages.
"All this information is available at one glance," Bhatla said. "You
don't have to manually do anything," he said. Still, each feature is
designed to be easily customized when desired.
Step back from the screen and increasingly desktop applets, instant
messaging windows, mobile phone browsers and interactive TV menus all
look alike. Lines are blurring between different ways of navigating
computers, phones and television.
Google is moving beyond "Coke Classic" -- the basic experience of
searching the Web through the browser for which it is known. In ways
not always apparent to the user, Google is seeking to control more of
a users' computer experience, the way Yahoo, Microsoft and America
Increasingly for Google, this means that users of its information
management tools will not need such tools from Microsoft or Yahoo, and
The downside is that Google Desktop's powerful information-vacuuming
capabilities can compete for a computer's resources with these rival
"There seems to be parallel development going on among all the major
players," said Greg Sterling, a Kelsey Group analyst. The major Web
media players all are creating "invisible walled gardens" that are
less open than they first appear, he said.
Google's strategy remains focused on search and information
management, but in small yet vital ways, users are being nudged to
Just last week America Online introduced a new version of its popular
AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) that emphasizes e-mail, radio, Internet
phone-calling, text messaging with mobile phone users, even Web-based
AIM targets people keen on all the new-fangled Internet
communications. Yahoo lures entertainment fans and socializers.
Microsoft attracts office workers. Google draws the Web-based
information worker, but covets the other audiences too.
Yahoo offers its own "sidebar" within a user's browser, which manages
music, photos and instant messenger conversations alongside whatever
Web page Yahoo users are viewing. Yahoo recently acquired
Konfabultator, which first popularized the modular programs it calls
Widgets among Apple Macintosh computer users. Google's sidebar is
In a challenge to Microsoft's dominance of the computer desktop, users
of the Google Sidebar are encouraged to bypass the Windows desktop and
"start" navigation menu. The Quickfind feature allows one to return to
recently used applications or Web sites without extra mouse clicks.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new