Google Inc. unveils a computer and Web search tool on Monday using self-updating navigation and personal information software that puts it in more direct competition with Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL.
The creator of the world's most popular Web search system said it was branching out beyond pure search to help users manage e-mail, instant messages, news headlines and music.
Google Desktop 2, as the new search software is known, helps users locate information stored on their own hard disk, on office network drives they may use and on the Web. Details can be found at http://desktop.google.com/features/.
The heart of the system is a tall, rectangular "sidebar" with a set of panels that provide glimpses into the latest "live" information of interest to the user. It actively learns from each move a user makes to personalise what is featured, Reuters says.
"We really want to have people be able to sit back and watch the Web come to them," Nikhil Bhatla, product manager of the Google Desktop product, said, adding that: "We have tried to provide a lot of information in a small amount of space."
Yahoo, Apple and Google each encourage developers to create new widgets for consumers to install.
Bhatla, the Google executive, touted Sidebar's ability to learn from a user's Web surfing habits. The program will add visited sites to its toolbar and receive automatic updates of postings or photos, so the user doesn't have to visit the site for fresh content. In displaying news stories, the program over time will favor categories that the user reads most often.
Google's Sidebar also may contribute to the company's growing feud with Microsoft. The software lets users bypass parts of Microsoft's Windows operating system, which analysts said was sure to aggravate executives at the Redmond, Wash.-based company.
For example, a computer user who types "word" into Sidebar's Quick Find tool may find an icon for the Microsoft Word application among the results. The program can be launched directly from the toolbar. Sidebar also displays frequently used files and applications, which means that computer users don't need to search through Windows folders to find that spreadsheet on which they were working. It also finds Web information without having to open Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, Los Angeles Times reports.
The worry for Microsoft is that the fewer Windows features its customers use, the less important they will believe the operating system to be.
"Being able to get under the covers of any Microsoft application is not going to be seen as favorable by the Microsoft camp," said Allen Weiner, an analyst with Gartner Inc.
Sidebar does not include advertisements, but analysts said they could imagine modules that cycle through display ads based on the pages a user has visited.