Google Desktop Out of Beta With More

Google brought its free Google Desktop product out of beta on Thursday and offered additional features. At the same time, it kicked off an affiliate marketing program aimed at increasing its reach.

The new consumer desktop search tool adds the Personalized Maps Panel, a section of the Sidebar that rotates through maps relevant to the user?s location and interests. The panel is auto personalized based on the user?s activity and location. The Sidebar is a customizable desktop application that offers quick access to content and data feeds, as well as small applications.

Product manager Nikhil Bhatla said the Maps Panel acts as a shortcut for local search. “You can see maps of locations mentioned on Web pages you’re visiting automatically in the Sidebar,” he said. For example, if someone looked up the locations of a local chain of stores, she could glance over and see their locations on the map in the Sidebar panel.

The official version of Google Desktop 2 makes room for developers, with real estate in the Sidebar for third-party applications. An enhanced API , or application programming interface, supports script-based plug-ins so that developers can use java-script. They also can program in Visual Studio .NET, Java, Perl, Python and other languages supporting COM and XML. A software development kit (SDK) provides documentation and sample code both for writing plug-ins and for embedding Google Desktop into other applications.

Google hopes the SDK will encourage outside developers to help improve the desktop search tool by adding plug-ins that extend its indexing ability to what Google said were 100,000 applications and 10,000 different file types available for Windows.

“It makes it extremely easy and fast to develop new plug-ins for the Sidebar,” Bhatla said, noting that java-script is riding a wave of popularity for its use in the programming strategy known as AJAX. There are around 100 plug-ins already available for Sidebar, he said.

Google also brought Desktop for Enterprise out of beta, also available at no charge.

“In addition to all the things the consumer product offers, it also has things that IT wants,” Bhatla said.

Google improved administration, integration and security. This release also offers improved search across IBM Lotus Notes messages. The enterprise tool searches both the user’s computer and the Internet. If the company uses the Google Enterprise Search Appliance or the Google Mini Appliance, desktop search users also can find documents located on company servers.

Google first released a consumer desktop search tool in October 2004. It followed with an enterprise version in May 2005. Google Desktop Search 2, released as a beta in August 2005, added the Sidebar feature.

Bhatla refused to comment on Google’s software strategy or its movement away from Web search, noting only that it was Google’s mission to index all information.

On Friday, Google announced affiliate marketing programs for AdSense, its contextual advertising service, and for Firefox with the Google Toolbar.

U.S. Web publishers who run AdSense ads on their pages can add a referral button to their sites that either suggests visitors apply for AdSense accounts or offers a download of the Mozilla Firefox browser with the Google Toolbar.

A publishers who refers another to AdSense will earn $100 when the referred publisher earns $100 in AdSense advertising. Publishers will receive up to $1 per toolbar download, payable when Firefox is installed. The exact amount of the toolbar referral fee depends on the country in which the person downloading it resides.

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