MSN Desktop Search on the Horizon

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-08-04 Print this article Print

MSN is eyeing more than Web search and will roll out a desktop search offering by the end of the year, exec tells search conference.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Expect Microsoft Corp. to launch its own desktop search product by the end of the year as it more aggressively enters the search market, a company executive said here Wednesday. Christopher Payne, vice president of MSN Search, told attendees at the Search Engine Strategies conference that desktop search is one of Microsofts top priorities as its MSN division moves forward with plans to launch its own algorithmic search engine technology.
"Well be launching later this year the ability not only to search the Web but also to search the desktop," said Payne, during a panel of executives from the top Web search engines, except Google Inc. "For users its disappointing to them that its harder to get to an e-mail in Outlook or an Exchange store than to get a Web file."
Payne offered few details about the desktop search product but said that technology from Microsofts acquisition last month of desktop-search startup Lookout Software LLC will be integrated into the new offering. MSN does plan to combine desktop search of e-mail messages and files with its Web search once both technologies are available, said MSN Product Manager Justin Osmer in an interview following the session. Whether that combination will occur when the desktop search product is first launched remains unclear and depends on the timing of MSN Searchs switch to its own Web search technology, also planned for later this year, Osmer said. After the Lookout acquisition, MSN offered few details on its desktop search plans. It also initially stopped offering the download of Lookouts Outlook plug-in for searching e-mail and files "because we wanted to focus on our own offering and integrate it in our own offering," Payne said. But MSN since has made the Lookout download available again through its MSN Sandbox site for technology previews, he said. "Its a harbinger of things to come [from MSN]," Payne said of Lookout. Just last week, MSN Corporate Vice President Yusuf Mehdi demonstrated a prototype of integrated search across Web results and users e-mails and files. Osmer said the interface previewed in that demo will serve as a basis for the MSN desktop search product. Although details remain sketchy, Osmer said MSN will make its desktop search available for free and through the Web, but it likely will include a download of a toolbar or other desktop client. Next Page: Others eye desktop search.

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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