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MSN Rolls Enterprise-Strength Desktop Search

Today, the corporate desktop and intranet. Tomorrow, Windows Live.

MSN released a new version of its desktop search tool designed for enterprise users. Its features have the IT manager in mind.

Microsoft included a consumer desktop search product in its MSN Toolbar, released in December 2004. The full version was launched in May 2005. Immediately, IT administrators began asking for an enterprise version, according to Heather Friedland, product planner for Windows desktop search.

The new version ensures that IT managers can deploy the product within the corporate environment to computers running licensed versions of Windows XP and Windows 2000.

"We've had enormous amounts of feedback over the last few months. We took a lot of phone calls with IT managers, trying to pinpoint what their needs were around customization," Friedland said. "Security and efficiency were two of the big 'asks' we heard from IT managers."

For example, admins can set group policies and use Active Directory. They can choose whether to turn on the Windows deskbar, whether to launch the customization wizard at startup, and whether they want non-personally identifiable usage data to be reported through the Consumer Experience Improvement Program. "We've heard a lot of feed back that they don't want that outside their firewalls," Friedland said.

If the IT administrator enables it, users can launch searches across the intranet and Web, as well as on the desktop from the same starting point.

Friedland said the key benefits are enabling IT managers to reach higher productivity -- as well as their users. "We don't force users to leave the application to do a search," Friedland said. "We don't take you into some other application you need to launch."

The new Windows Desktop Search also has tight integration with Outlook. Users can turn on a beta version of an integrated search view that lets them see the desktop search results inside the Outlook preview pane. Microsoft will evaluate customer feedback on this feature.

Eventually, users will be able to use Windows Desktop Search to search SharePoint files, as well as other third-party collaboration tools. "Microsoft's overall search vision for the enterprise is that we want people to search across their data, no matter where it lives."

"A lot of Windows Desktop Search capabilities will be built into the visualization and organization scenarios inside Windows Vista," Friedland said.

Microsoft also plans to integrate Windows Desktop Search with Windows Live, the software-as-service offering announced earlier this month. Windows Live includes Web-based e-mail, instant messaging and security services.

"We'll continue expanding the capabilities of the desktop search product and augment it with additional Windows Live services," Friedland said.

"For example, I can do a search across the contents of my PC and hard drive in Windows today. If I also am a consumer of Windows Live services, I'll be able to search across Windows Live, as well."

When asked whether Windows Desktop Search would be able to search files created with Office Live, expected in 2006, Friedland said, "That's a good question, but I don't have any plans I can comment on today."