Microsoft’s MSN is looking beyond Web search and is working on a tool that also allows users to quickly and easily find e-mail messages, Word documents and other files on their computers.
Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of the MSN Information Services & Merchant Platform division at Microsoft, demonstrated both the forthcoming MSN Web search engine and the new desktop search tool yesterday.
Microsoft's efforts to compete with Google on Web search are no secret. The software maker has said it is building a search engine from scratch. While it made some noise recently about a new look -- one that resembles the Google look -- for its current search site, the company earlier this month also quietly made available a technical preview of its new search engine at http://techpreview.search.msn.com.
"We're going to compete very, very hard" with Google, Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer said in a later presentation.
The desktop search application had not previously been presented. The tool builds an index of content on a user's computer and makes it searchable. Relevant Internet links can be displayed in a pane on the right side of the search tool. In the demonstration, the Internet links area also contained advertising.
Key benefits of the desktop search application are that it searches faster and deeper than the search feature built into Windows. Third parties provide similar tools, including Lookout Software, which Microsoft recently acquired.
Mehdi did not provide a target release date for the search tool, but a source familiar with the product said it should be available before Microsoft releases the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, which is expected in 2006.
Mehdi also mentioned Microsoft's forthcoming MSN Music Web site, which will compete against Apple's iTunes and other online music services. The MSN Music download service is expected to be launched in the coming months and offer songs from all major record labels.
The new Microsoft Web search engine is expected to be launched officially in the coming months. The technical preview will be online for a limited time so Microsoft can gather feedback, according to the Web site.