The Google Deskbar, a free software download released today by Google Labs, places a branded search query window within the Windows taskbar, letting users perform Google searchers without having a browser window open, although users must have installed Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher.
Deskbar functionality makes Google search seem almost like part of the operating system, since it works inside other Windows applications. For example, users can highlight text within an application such as Excel or Word, then hit Ctrl + Alt + G to automatically insert that text into the search query box.
In August, Terra Lycos
released a similar tool, HotBot Quick-Search Deskbar, based on the open source “Dave’s Deskbar.” Like Google’s, it lets users search from a tiny text box while performing other desktop functions like e-mail or word processing.
“It’s Google breaking out of the browser,” said Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Watch, which is owned by IAR’s corporate parent. Google is trying to get a jump [on Microsoft’s browser evolution] by trying to make themselves part of the Windows interface rather than the browser interface.”
Search results show up in a small pane that rises above the Deskbar and overlays a corner of the application being used. Results include paid listings at the top and AdWords boxes along the side, just as with a browser search. A popup menu provides links to Google services and other Web content sites.
Google product manager John Piscitello said that the outside content providers on the menu were not paying for placement there and that there was no revenue share involved at this time. He declined to comment on future plans for revenue partnerships within the Deskbar.
Piscitello emphasized that the Deskbar technology is in the early stages of development. The company hosts a discussion group for comments, and also invites users to opt in to having usage tracked so the company can see which features are used more.
Sullivan pointed out that Microsoft already has search integrated into its browser. He said Microsoft might choose to mimic Google’s move and insert a search box into the taskbar. Microsoft’s MSN gets paid listings revenue from Google competitor Overture, recently acquired by Yahoo! Seen in that light, Google’s move is a pre-emptive strike against the software giant. With the Deskbar, Sullivan said, “Google’s brand will always be front and center. Because it’s always there, it might cause some people who use other search engines to think more about using Google.”
In the contentious paid search wars, Google can use every edge it can get.