Blogger: Guy Creese
According to a story in The New York Times and elsewhere, Microsoft is going to make changes in the Windows Vista OS, allowing users to select a default desktop search program (such as, umm... Google Desktop Search), rather than defaulting to "Instant Search" that Microsoft built into the operating system.
Google had filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice department in December 2006, saying that the built-in functionality didn't allow competition from other desktop search applications. (The built-in Vista functionality also blunted Google's May 2006 deal with Dell Computer, where Dell agreed to pre-load the PCs it sells with the Google toolbar for Web and PC search.) Microsoft's initial response was that no, it didn't prevent competition -- that users could install a third party app such as Google Desktop Search if they so desired. Google's riposte was along the lines of, "Yeah, but it slows the system down running two indexers at once." (Although I didn't test the specific instance, I can certainly verify that that can happen. Several years ago, in order to better understand the functionality of desktop search, I concurrently ran desktop search applications from Blinkx, Copernic, Google, and Yahoo! and watched my system slow to a crawl.)
So after a bit of posturing by Google, Microsoft, the U.S. Department of Justice, and attorney generals from the U.S. states, a deal has been cut. This is a win for users, as users should be able to choose which desktop search application they use, partly because the user interfaces are inclined to be different. For example, I personally don't like the sidebar Google interface; I much prefer Yahoo! Desktop Search (built by X1). Desktop search, just like a worker's physical desk, is an intensely personal thing. Some users like buttons to push, others want a clean text box and nothing more, while others want to see suggested content. With Copernic, Google, Microsoft, X1, and others each offering different UIs, letting users choose their own is a good thing.