Technology enthusiast site Neowin.net first disclosed the product details, prompting an MSN executive to post on MSN Searchs Weblog that the screen shots are from an internal prerelease version of its desktop search.
"While were flattered by the attention and interest, this was an unauthorized disclosure," wrote Oshoma Momoh, general manager of MSN Search program management, in a blog posting. "As many of you know, we have been working on a PC search product for some time, and have demonstrated some early prototypes over the past several months."
Momoh wrote that MSN plans to release a beta version of its desktop search product before the end of the year. MSN officials have been discussing plans for desktop search since the summer and indicated that it would eventually combine search results from local hard drives, such as e-mail and Office files, with Web results from MSN.
In its online posting, Neowin.net wrote that the desktop search product provides a tool bar that is installed in Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook and Windows Explorer as well as an MSN "Deskbar" application that is accessible from the Windows taskbar.
Search results vary based on the application from which users are searching. So the Outlook tool bar returns e-mail and contacts, the IE tool bar retrieves Web results and the Windows Explorer tool bar finds PC-based results.
But users also can choose to combine Web and hard-drive results in all searches, and the overall MSN Deskbar application brings the different results together, according to Neowin.nets analysis.
"Searching is speedy and you can even search for the author of certain files," Neowin.net wrote about the desktop search.
MSNs desktop moves follow its July purchase of startup Lookout Software LLC, which had created an add-on to Outlook for searching e-mail, contacts, files and other hard-drive data.
Desktop search has become another battleground among leading search players. Google Inc. last month launched a beta of its desktop search application, which brings together desktop and Web results.
Yahoo Inc.s CEO earlier this month said during an investment conference that the company is working on a desktop search product, and Ask Jeeves Inc. acquired desktop search company Tukaroo Inc. as part of its plans to move into desktop search.