Microsoft Debuts Desktop Search Tool

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Microsoft Corp. released its long-awaited desktop search technology yesterday, entering a crowded race to dominate information access on Windows-based PCs.


Still in beta mode, the free system lets people search the contents of their hard drives, including Microsoft Outlook e-mail, calendar items, contacts and Office documents.


Desktop search is getting its share of attention this year. Google launched its desktop search tool in October, while Yahoo said last week it would debut its tool in January. Ask Jeeves, which bought desktop search company Tuckaroo Inc. in June, is expected to launch its own system this week.


Industry experts say the desktop search functions are a necessary method to build user loyalty because Web search has few barriers to switching to another engine.


Instead of building its own tool, Yahoo licensed technology from X1 Technologies, which lets users search their computers for word processing files, e-mails, photos and more than 220 other data types.


The new MSN Toolbar Suite includes an updated version of a toolbar plug-in for Internet Explorer, and new toolbars for the MSN Deskbar, Windows Explorer and Outlook. It can be downloaded at http://beta.toolbar.msn.com. It is expected to be available globally next year.


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