Many of our regular readers will be aware that we cover the happenings at Google fairly regularly in our newsletters - the reason is, they are the most interesting, dynamic and significant player in the internet arena.
Their exclusive focus on the internet - initially in search, but then into news, shopping, webmail and more - has meant that they have not directly competed against Microsoft (undoubtably the biggest player in the IT world) head on before.
As many of us will know first hand, using the search tools provided in Windows to find a document is often cumbersome - you're generally limited to searching by the name of the file, and date fields if you like. Google has taken it's online search heritage and moved to the desktop providing a version that can harness the power of Google to search within locally stored Word documents, PDF files, emails, browsing history and more.
It is a powerful little toolt and is available for download at: http://desktop.google.com.
Once installed, the Desktop search builds an index of your hard drive based on your preferences. It creates this index in the background when you're not using your computer, ensuring minimum hassle.
The program creates an icon in the task-bar of your system, and with a simple double-click, your browser will open, but this time, the logo will be a little different, and you'll be searching through you hard drive. The key concept here is that you'll be searching with your web-browser, not an annoying program with an animated dog asking you if you're sure you'd like it to 'go away and never come back' to quote Smegal from Lord of the Rings.
This approach of maintaining a browser based interface on a desktop application is massive, and Microsoft should be scared. The implications are numerous, specifically that users will become even more wedded to their browser as their only interface to their key information - this makes the operating system a lot less relevant in the scheme of things, since browsers are "cross platform" and run just as well on Windows as Linux and Macs.
Rumours abound about Microsoft's response. Microsoft has promised a much better search engine as a part of its next version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn, due to be released some time in 2006. It was initially due in 2005, but it's proven to be more complex for Microsoft, and with their new-found concern for security, I think it's fairly safe to say it won't be out by the mid-2006 deadline either. And even if it does, the server-side engines required to make search work as well as Google won't be here until at least 2009 - so Google is in a great position.
Which is, of course, why all the tech journalists are in such a fanatical state - they haven't had even a pretender looking like they were going to challenge Microsoft (with the exception of Linux, but it does not have a stock code, and is a little hard to get on the record to draw a quote from) since the late 90's. This excitement, combined with Google's exciting real-world earnings (they're actually performing very successfully on both the stock-market and the balance sheet) ensures it won't be the last you hear on this little subject from us or anyone else for that matter.