Sunday, June 10, 2007

Anti-trust complaint over Vista desktop search

Stephen Labaton at the New York Times writes:
Google has accused Microsoft of designing its latest operating system, Vista, to discourage the use of Google’s desktop search program.

Google complained ... that consumers who try to use its search tool for computer hard drives on Vista were frustrated because Vista has a competing desktop search program that cannot be turned off.

Google said that Vista violated Microsoft's 2002 antitrust settlement, which prohibits Microsoft from designing operating systems that limit the choices of consumers.
As much as I like Google Desktop Search, I have a bit of a hard time seeing Google's point of view on this one.

The opportunity for desktop search only existed because the Microsoft WinXP file search has been bizarrely and pitifully slow.

This seems like a bug. Searching the file system is functionality that is core to an operating system, but Microsoft botched the job of doing it well in WinXP.

In Vista, Microsoft corrected the bug. Desktop search works just fine on newer systems. So, the opportunity for desktop search apps now has evaporated.

See also Todd Bishop's discussion of the same article in his post, "Google revealed as source of Windows Vista complaint".

See also my Nov 2006 post, "Is desktop search over?", and my Mar 2005 post, "Desktop search should not exist".

Update: Looks like Microsoft is not going to pick a fight on this one. Ten days later, Joe Wilcox writes that "Microsoft will modify Vista search".


Anonymous said...

There may be some merit to Google's complaint -- if you only see it from Google's point of view. On the other hand: if the desktop search in Vista becomes "outlawed", then we're also saying that Microsoft isn't allowed to compete against Mac OS X on equal terms.

codeslinger said...

Uh, love your stuff Greg, but can't agree with this one. Searching the filesystem is not a core feature of an OS. Frankly, its only been around in a usable form for a couple of years now and clearly is a competitive point for all those involved (first Apple, then Google, now MS). UNIX users will remember locate(1) from before these days and how "not core" it really was (driven from cron). Vista's search feature is clearly a catchup move to try and lock in consumers while they still can. However, with more and more of their data moving online, I think its Google et al that will have the last laugh on this one.

Greg Linden said...

Good point, Codeslinger. When I was writing that, I thought of the example of other operating systems (like UNIX) and wondered if anyone would call me on it.

I think searching the file system is only a small step beyond accessing the file system, and accessing the file system clearly is core to the OS.

But, you are right, I admit, whether file search is core is up for debate.

Andrew Hitchcock said...

When I first saw this, I instinctively thought it was a response to Microsoft asking the government to look into the Google/Doubleclick deal.