Google Desktop Search is soon going to be a viable alternative to Windows Desktop Search in Windows Vista. This is seriously bad news for Microsoft, and this is largely the result of Google’s new lobbying efforts.
In today’s Washington Post, there are two articles about the new Google lobbying powerhouse here in DC. While Microsoft has had a strong policy influence in this city for the last few years, they’re continuing to suffer the consequences of a poor presence in the time leading up to their major federal antitrust case. Google recently delivered a striking blow by bringing attention to the officials tracking Microsoft’s antitrust compliance the “issues” with third-party desktop search applications in Windows Vista. As a result, yesterday Microsoft agreed to “allow users to select a default desktop search provider in the same way they choose a default Internet browser or media player” and “to provide technical information to other companies so thay can make their desktop program run more smoothly on Vista” (as paraphrased from a Microsoft executive in this article). These changes will come in the Vista Service Pack slated to be released (at least for testing) near the end of the calendar year.
For the last couple years I’ve been recommending Windows Desktop Search (WDS) over Google Desktop Search (GDS) simply because of the Vista and Office 2007 compatibility advantages. WDS is built into the Start Menu, every Windows Explorer window, and every Outlook folder (see below) so it just makes sense for people to get used to WDS in XP and then stick with it in Vista. Until now GDS in Vista has been slow and had poor OS integration. And trying to running both applications would be a huge system hog.
Microsoft has had good reason for making search a big part of their operating system:
- We’re all growing more accustomed to search because of our web behavior and the increasing amount of information we all (can) hold onto
- They’re in the process of working on a new file system, called WinFS, that should change a lot of the way data is stored, tagged, and retrieved on a local and local network basis. WDS is being built in anticipation of some of these changes
Microsoft has always benefited from offering applications with tight integration into their operating system that dissuaded people from using third-party applications. Whether you call that monopolization or good business, they’re going to have continual struggles if their core features, like desktop search in Vista, are to be as interchangeable as web browsers. And, without doubt, this will be no small development effort to open up these APIs and ensure proper compatibility.
It’s hard to feel sorry for Microsoft, but I think the articles in today’s Post raise a good point–how much of this is all the result of poor policy planning years ago? I look forward to GDS as a viable search alternative in Vista. And hey, maybe it’ll give Microsoft an excuse to innovate on some key features rather than just integrating them…