RealTime IT News

Google Packs Apps to the Desktop

Google not only is distributing videos now, it's handing out software.

The Google Pack, announced on Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show, offers a single control panel for installing ten software helper applications.

"It's a free collection of world-class, useful software put together in a convenient installation manner," said Sundar Pichai, a Google group product manager.

The Google Pack, available now, is heavy on products from Google itself. It includes the Google toolbar, Google desktop (which includes the Sidebar and the deskbar), the Picasa photo management and sharing service, Google Alert, Google Talk messaging, the Google Video Player, and a new Google Pack screensaver that lets users turn photos stored on the hard drive into a screensaver.

The software pack also includes the open-source Firefox browser, Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0, LavaSoft Adaware, Norton Antivirus, the Real Player, and Trillium, an instant messaging application.

"With a few clicks, you can get about ten applications installed on your computer, and we'll help you keep them up to date," Pichai said.

The service requires Google Updater, which Pichai described as a small downloadable application. He said it's a smart application that can scan the computer's hard drive and determine whether it contains the latest versions of applications, only downloading what's needed. There's one user license agreement and one console for all the applications.

Users can choose to override the default installation in order to choose what to install.

Pichai said the pack is free and Google isn't charging partners to have their products included.

"This is strategic to us," he said. "We have a lot of important products that we're interested in getting to as many users as we can." Google plans to continue to add more third-party application to the pack. Users will receive automatic alerts when an upgrade is available or new software is offered.

Getting branded applications onto users desktops has become a key strategy in the search engine wars. Google's most recent desktop search application, released in August 2005, included Sidebar, which offered several customizable applets and content feeds.