Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Life with Google Desktop 2: Snuggling Up to Your Content

The recent announcement of Google Desktop 2 cranks up the heat a bit on Google's efforts to create a ubiquitous environment for content consumption. Like its earlier incarnation the new desktop tool provides searching of local emails, cached Web pages and office automation documents, but it adds an optional (but heavily pushed) "sidebar" feature that can display content such as weblog subscriptions, photo slideshows, news, recent emails, a scratchpad and a "Quick View" of a mix of recent and frequently used Web pages. All of these features can be tuned fairly easily for preferences and the sidebar can disappear altogether or be rearranged to personal tastes. Open up your Outlook and you get a new Google Desktop search bar embedded in the application, with quick search results for emails and a link to Desktop search results for more content from Outlook and other desktop sources. Like the earlier version there are some worrisome factors: I had by coincidence visited by bank's Web site just prior to downloading and the QuickView feature captured the signon page. However, specific pages or Web sites can be excluded from the feature's gaze (of course you have to be aware of that gaze first).

While there have been personal sidebar tools in circulation for some time, it's interesting to note the degree to which Google is trying to bridge the divide between Web tool and user desktop interface in melding personal and Web content with Desktop 2. It's a "My Yahoo!" on the level of content that matters most to an individual - personal content - with a mixture of content from external sources that's deemed important to an individual based on habits as much as conscious selection. Instead of sweating the details of developing "personal" portals online, Google is concentrating on creating personal content value where it matters most to individuals: in their own hands. While not the loudest of shots across Microsoft's bow, there's no mistaking where this personal approach is intended to lead the loyalty of PC users who find less and less use for the traditional Microsoft desktop. It's a far cry from a sidebar tool to an operating system, but what we click on is what we use and identify with as a brand. The brand of Google is gaining more depth by the day with users via tools such as Desktop 2.
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