Thursday, January 20, 2005

Do people need desktop search?

Joe Wilcox at Microsoft Monitor criticizes MSN Desktop Search, saying:
    I'm still not convinced all this rush for desktop search delivers consumers what they really want or need. Don the dad probably could find that letter he wrote to Susie's teacher in the "My Documents" folder; no search tool required. A media player manages his music just fine. Sure, he needs help finding his photos, but those search capabilities aren't here yet. Right now, I'm convinced desktop search's real value is e-mail ...
Joe is right that desktop search doesn't provide much that mainstream users need. But I'm not sure I see faster e-mail search as making it any more compelling. Even with my gigabytes of archived mail, e-mail search is fast enough. There's got to be more here.

Why doesn't MSN Desktop Search search web history? I want to search every website I've ever seen. Very useful when I know I saw something on the web before but can't remember where. This is where desktop search needs to go to bring real value. I should be able to search and easily find again anything I ever saw on my computer before.

Google Desktop Search does search browsing history (unfortunately only for IE), and Microsoft's Stuff I've Seen project suggests we'll be seeing steps in this direction from MSN soon too.

See also my earlier posts, "Yahoo desktop search" and "Seruku: Search what you've seen".


Costas said...

Greg, I agree on the generic desktop search argument, but email search is compelling: Lookout (the basis of MSN Outlook search) changed the way I work for the better (much, much better).

Now, as far as web history goes, there's tons of very interesting stuff that can be done there, esp. if you have a personalization engine/database handy :-) Have you looked at an IE/Firefox plug-in that would trail the user and log usage back to Findory? I've toyed with the idea for memigo but I never had the time or resources to attempt it...

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Costas! Good to hear from you!

I've heard a lot of people say they like Lookout. Did you see this post I had on them? Interesting that Lookout uses the open source Lucene search engine.

Interesting idea you have, but I'm not sure the world needs yet another toolbar. Ever see this screenshot of a guy who went nuts installing toolbars?

Dan said...

As consumer content increases on their own computers, improved faster search will become more and more useful. Desktop search saves time because you don't really have to folder your email or files anymore. For images, I don't ever name photos--just the directories. Instead of going to Explore, My computer, c drive, or even clicking on some shortcut, I go to my search toolbar and search for one word I know is in one of those image directory names, and boom, I have thumbnails in front of me. Desktop Search serves as a shortcut to get to the content, without thinking about paths, folder names, folder sorting, strange folder locations, navigating to the right folder, where did I put that file, etc.

For the business user, desktop search is HUGE. The user looks for content to do their duties on their local desktop, then their team or company intranet, then the web.

CNET, Slate, and others gave the top rating to free Copernic and Coveo Desktop Search. CDS searches emails (Outlook and Outlook Express), files on local disks and shares, images, audio/music, video, contacts (personal and global), favorites (IE and Firefox), Intranet (in the case of Coveo), and the web (currently Yahoo's All the Web). What more is there to search? All this in the current release. For the average business/enterprise user, it is critical to be able to quickly find information in tens of thousands of emails, and thousands or more files, and team content repositories like internal file shares, web servers, SharePoint, Lotus, Exchange servers, etc (via integrated Coveo Enterprise Search).

Most enterprise users report saving at least 30 minutes a day compared to using conventional search means.

I don't know of any other app out there where a user says they save at least 30 minutes a day, except maybe to some extent when email superceded the phone.

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Dan. You make some good points.

I agree that enterprise search is a huge market, but I think that requires a different product than the free desktop search applications offered by Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask Jeeves, and AOL.

I'm questioning the value of desktop search products to individual desktop PC users. Ask yourself, does grandma need a new desktop search application? Or would she just make do with the default Windows file search?

I'm not questioning the value of enterprise search. But I think that's a different space.