OPINION

Google’s Gotcha Moment

Some ideas are so genius they’re downright obvious. They’re the ones that make you slap your forehead and wonder aloud why you didn’t think of it first. Even worse is when you did think of it but didn’t do anything about it.

That had to be the reaction across the Web search industry when word of Google’s Deskbar began to circulate. The tool, which puts the search box right onto the desktop, is the kind of quantum leap forward that marks all great technological evolution. Search is now officially too big for its browsers.

Don’t Box Me In

Google has busted through the equivalent of the invisible wall those mimes are always pushing against. Every search engine has put its hands against this fake wall, but Google was the first to bust through and win the chance to claim a lot more real estate for itself.

Microsoft almost certainly has had the same thought, and word is that thecompany plans to provide a similar type of integration when Longhorn finally reaches shelves, but that’s more than a year away. By then, Google will have stuck a flag in anything not moving in the search sector.

Google is a bit coy about the whole thing, calling it an experiment, a test. But everything the company does is a test, to some extent. Google News still has a beta tag on it well over a year after it went live. Beta or not, millions of people use the feature, just as they use Google’s Froogle shopping search service, which also is supposedly still in beta.

Beta Is Better

Maybe calling these things beta tests makes them seem less threatening. Who knows? But they are all threats to Google’s competitors — and none more so than Deskbar.

The best and most insidious part about Deskbar is that it out-Microsofts Microsoft. After all, the software giant is always talking about knowledge workers and how .NET and all of the other improvements to its products are going to help people do their jobs more efficiently.

What’s more efficient than a Web search box beckoning right there on the desktop, regardless of what program a user is working in? The immediate benefits are plentiful, but the long-range upside for Google is what really boggles the mind. If Deskbar works — and what has Google tried that hasn’t? — search will become second-nature, an integrated part of everything people do with their software, from word processing and e-mail to instant messaging and presentations.

Sure, Google stands to gain from its innovation, but so does the entirecomputer-using universe. Tightly integrated search leverages the power of the Internet, the capabilities of always-on high-speed connections, and the knowledge base that has been created and is being stored on the world’s servers — and it does so better than anything except instant messaging and e-mail.

Running in Place

We already knew search was special. But now it’s been propelled to the top of the heap, a killer application that does what the Web is best at — using widely scattered information in a focused manner. Eventually, this kind of search functionality would have evolved even without Google. From the days of Windows 95, Microsoft has given users the ability to turn their desktops into browsers, but Google’s genius is to streamline the search “plug-in” so users don’t have to muck around with Microsoft’s active desktop settings.

But why wait for evolution to take place when you can leapfrog a few generations? Google has issued a modest reminder that technology is all about moving forward faster than the normal pace of change. Everyone else may be running to catch up now, but at least they’re running.


Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


4 Comments

  • I think Google’s deskbar is great but it’s no biggie to someone who was using Google since their first month of existence. My browser home page is my own web page and I have featured a Google search bar on my main page since Google’s first six months on the planet. Access to Google and all of my favorite search engines have only been a mouse click away ever since I discovered them.
    Yes I installed the deskbar it’s first day in existence, but only because it loads a browser-less results window, not because I never had near instant access to Google going on several years now. Sure this is very nice, but I don’t think I would say this is the card that brings all the card houses down, it is just the next logical next for the best search engine in the world to make itself a little more readily accessible. For me this move did not detract from the attention I give any other search company because for years I haven’t used any other search company. It is analogous to the claims of the music industry — how can I be stealing dollars from record artists when they wouldn’t have had my business with or without mp3s. I didn’t buy CDs then and I don’t buy them now, but if anything I help artists more now because now I can say YES, he, she, or they is/are great artists. It is better to be able to say they are great than it is to say you never heard of them, so if you never had their music in your home and never would have, it is a service to the music industry if you are at least familiar with artists you never would have known about were it not for mp3s. I AM close to forty and now I love rap music. Before mp3s I hated it because I had little exposure to it.
    Bob Travis
    Parsippany, NJ

  • I completely agree with jmordetsky. The two things are way different and the desktop extensions have been developed by many third party companies for MS-Windows. For ex. WebShots.com has a desktop calendar since long ago. What Google is doing is making the search easier and they want to have their presence on many desktops and be first than the other search engine companies.

  • Dude,
    Whoever wrote this story is seriously delusional.
    First off, Microsoft created this little thing called "Shell extensions" so that software companies who wanted to integrate their items into the OS could do so. The people at google aren’t genius, Well, they might be, but they aren’t for this. All they did was read the platform sdk.
    Secondly, yahoo has been taking advantage of shell extenstions for a while. As browser helper objects toolbars and explorer bars.
    Google just happens to be the first to "register" a band as deskband, which for you techies out there is really just a matter of registering the object differently. Toolbars, deskbands, and explorer bands all implement the same interfaces, how the shell consumes them is just based on how they are registered.
    Competes with .NET? Man are you drinking? That is literally comparing apples to pocket calculators. They have nothing to do with one another.
    "out-Microsofts Microsoft"? .NET is for programmers to do their work faster, integrate faster, this bar is to make searching via my desktop faster….It basically affords me the luxury of not opening a browser. May I again mention, Microsoft gave this ability to programmers via shell extensions.’

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