Search Rushes to the Desktop

Late Wednesday night, Yahoo unveiled plans to debut a beta version of Yahoo Desktop Search in the coming weeks.

At the same time, Ask Jeeves confirmed to that its own desktop search product will go live late in the evening of Wednesday, December 15, with an official launch the next day.

Maybe it’s the excitement of the upcoming Search Engine Strategies show, to be held in Chicago next week. It may be the year-end countdown that has both engineers and the PR machines buzzing. In any case, Yahoo’s announcement of a plan to sometime announce a product and Ask Jeeves’ openness about Ask Jeeves Desktop Search show the intense competition for this new ground in search.

“Locally installed PC applications will be the successor to the toolbar war to gain end-user traffic,” wrote Meta Group analyst Timothy Hickernell in a November report. And that war is raging.

Search providers are racing to catch Google , which released its own desktop search tool in October. MSN has promised desktop search by the end of the year, following the beta release of its homegrown search technology in November.

Yahoo Desktop Search will rely on search technology from X1, which sells a standalone desktop search product and also powers the Snap search service. High-tech incubator idealab of Santa Monica, Calif. owns both Snap and X1.

Yahoo said it would enable users to search for photos, music files and PDFs . Google Desktop Search can’t search files in Adobe’s PDF format, while Yahoo and Adobe partnered to develop a Yahoo Search toolbar for Adobe Reader.

Ask Jeeves declined to release details of its technology ahead of the official announcement, but when it bought desktop search technology vendor Tuckaroo in June, the company said it would use Tuckaroo’s assets to deliver a tool to search across the desktop and the Internet.

Meanwhile, despite speculation that it would launch its desktop search tool at Search Engine Strategies, MSN reverted to its “no software before its time” mantra.

Said MSN Product Manager Justin Osmer, “Our timeline is driven by the quality of the service – we will launch MSN desktop search when we feel that the service has met the quality bar our consumers expect and deserve.” He reiterated Microsoft’s previous promise to release a U.S. beta of its desktop search technology by the end of 2004

Search Engine Strategies is operated by Jupitermedia, which owns

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