[Paleopsych] AP: Google Introduces Search Program for Hard Drives

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Thu Oct 14 16:52:53 UTC 2004

Google Introduces Search Program for Hard Drives
October 14, 2004
Filed at 10:04 a.m. ET

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) -- Online search engine leader
Google Inc. is setting its sights on the computer desktop
with a new software program that promises to scour through
the clutter of documents, e-mails, instant messages and
other files stored on hard drives.

The free desktop search program, unveiled Thursday at
http://desktop.google.com, marks Google's latest attempt to
become even more indispensable to the millions of people
who entrust the company to find virtually anything on the

It's a not surprising step into a crucial realm.

Managing infoglut is an increasing challenge for computer
users, and the program gives Google an important head start
on Microsoft Corp., which is working on a similar
file-searching tool that it recently said would not be
ready for the next version of its Windows operating system
promised for 2006.

``We think of this (program) as the photographic memory of
your computer,'' said Marissa Mayer, Google's director of
consumer Web products. ``It's pretty comprehensive. If
there's anything you once saw on your computer screen, we
think you should be able to find it again quickly.''

The may give Mountain View-based Google, the industry
leader in Internet search, a significant competitive
advantage in luring traffic from chief rivals Microsoft's
MSN. and Yahoo Inc., both of which have been improving
their technology.

Although the program can be used exclusively offline to
probe hard drives, Google designed it so it will meld with
its online search engine. Google.com visitors who have new
program installed on their computer will see a ``desktop''
tab above the search engine toolbar and all their search
results will include a section devoted to the hard drive in
addition to the Web.

``The integration with the search engine is the key to this
product and what makes it pretty fantastic,'' said
Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li, who previewed the
new product.

Google is betting the program will expand its search engine
audience and encourage even more online searches than it
already processes -- a pattern that would yield advertising
revenue, the company's main moneymaker.

The company's financial success already has turned its
stock into a hot commodity. Google's shares closed
Wednesday at $140.90, a 66 percent gain from their initial
public offering price of $85 less than two months ago.

Leery of raising privacy concerns that have shadowed its
recently introduced e-mail service, Google is emphasizing
that the desktop search program doesn't provide a peephole
into the hard drive, even when the product connects with
the online search engine.

``It's totally private,'' Mayer said. ``Google does not
know what happens when the hard drive is searched.''

Pam Dixon, executive director for the World Privacy Forum,
said she will withhold judgment until she thoroughly
reviews the new program. ``The key question will be if this
thing ever phones home to the mother ship.''

Despite her reservations, Dixon expects Google's desktop
search program to have mass appeal. ``I think most people
think of their computer hard drives as these black holes of
information, so this could be of some real value,'' she
said. ``

Other desktop search programs are already available, such
as X1 Search from X1 Technologies Inc. of Pasadena, but
Google is the first company among high-tech's household
names to try to make it easier for people sift through the
mishmash of files, e-mails, and instant messages on
personal computers.

Google began working on the program, code named ``Fluffy
Bunny,'' about a year ago, Mayer said, in response to a
familiar refrain: ``Why can't I search my computer as
easily as I can search the Web?''

In addition to Microsoft, AOL is reported to also be
working on a desktop search program and most industry
analysts believe Yahoo Inc. will develop something similar.

Google is allowing people to download its program for free.
Currently compatible only with the Windows operating
system, it requires about 10 minutes to download on a
dial-up connection and takes some five or six hours to
index a computer's hard drive.

Each program user can select the types of information to be
indexed and searched.

The product can pore through the files using Microsoft
Office applications and several types of e-mail programs,
including Microsoft's Outlook and Hotmail and Yahoo.

Google's desktop search still isn't compatible with the
company's new e-mail service, called Gmail. If desired, the
program automatically saves all AOL instant message
conversations and all Web pages stored on a computer.

Google's desktop search program is so powerful, Li said,
that computer users should carefully consider what kind of
material they want indexed, particularly if they're sharing
a computer with family, friends or office colleagues.

``People are going to have to think pretty carefully about
this,'' Li said. ``There are some things that you probably
don't want indexed on a computer.''


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