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Meta Search For The Desktop

UPDATED: A new entrant into desktop search takes a different approach: leveraging the indices created by other applications instead of building its own.

Watson, released this week by Intellext, is a sort of meta desktop search engine that also incorporates contextual analysis to automatically suggest related items as the user works.

This "proactive search" feature can point to information the user didn't know existed in places he or she might not have thought of, according to Jay Budzik, a founder and chief technology officer of Intellext.

"There's a limitation in the [search] model that makes you responsible for what you should be thinking about or looking for," Budzik said.

The Watson technology forms contextually based queries that Budzik said were designed to generate better results. "It understands the overall gist of what you're working on and selects terms of the query that you use over and over. It tempers that with what slide or paragraph you're on at that moment," he said. The toolset includes ways of focusing the search, as well as a regular search query box.

Watson can gather results from Web sites, desktop search applications, online news sites, subscriber services and search engines, as well as documents and data from a company's corporate knowledge management systems, databases and intranets.

Budzik said Watson's proactive search eliminates a problem with knowledge management applications: They require users to go and find information, then look at the results and decide what's relevant. It also uncovers information they might not have thought to search for.

For example, someone working on a proposal for a customer might not realize that another worker had created something very similar that could be quickly modified.

"Information will be accessible to your employees, so they don't have the excuse that they didn't know it existed," Budzik said.

Watson's proactive search is similar to that provided by Blinkx Desktop Search. However, Blinkx builds and updates its own index.

The advantage of the index-free approach is a lighter tool that doesn't hog resources by recreating the filing systems other applications already have produced, according to Al Wasserberger, chief executive officer of Intellext.

"We don't want to index the Internet -- or your desktop," Wasserberger said. "There are lots of people that know how to do that. We leverage all third parties; we don't do it ourselves."

At this point, the tool is limited in scope: It will search Microsoft Word, Outlook and PowerPoint files, do Web searches via Internet Explorer only and can leverage only the X1 desktop search tool. But Budzik promised that integration with other desktop search products is on the way.

The three editions -- Watson Standard, Watson Professional and Watson Enterprise -- all are focused on business users willing to pay to get an enterprise-grade tool. The product can be customized to connect with not only the corporate intranet but with a variety of corporate data sources.

Updates prior version to clarify titles for Wasserberger and Budzik.