The news lately has emphasized "search" as the next battleground in the war for dominance on the PC desktop. At least, that's what you'd think if you believed every analyst who is still allowed to use a pen. Frequently, though, it's the same people who told you there was no dotcom bubble who now find search so sexy: Will Google Inc replace Microsoft Corp as the platform of the search, or will Microsoft launch new and improved searching and steal Google's business?
Anyone who believes Microsoft can find a better way to search is invited to do two things. First, use your desktop Windows to search your local PC (or your network file server) for a word within a document. If you're searching less than 5G bytes of space, you can go and refill your coffee while you wait. If you're searching, 20G bytes or more, you can go to lunch and return before the results come in. Yet many pundits believe that, within two years, Microsoft can build a search engine that will be faster and more effective than Google's.
Stranger still are those, probably wishful thinkers, in the ABM (Anyone But Microsoft) group who feel Google can become the "platform of the future" and let users bypass Windows. Because most users have no desire to "bypass Windows", though, it's hard to see what a viable business plan might be. Some even suggest that Google develop its own browser as a way to create a platform.
Fortunately, Google CEO Eric Schmidt knows firsthand what happens when you challenge Microsoft on its own turf. He had to come in and pick up the pieces at Novell after that company's disastrous attempt to use DR-Dos and WordPerfect to compete with Microsoft only to see the company's fortunes ruined for a decade.
Google needs to keep its sites trained on targets that benefit from its unique position as king of search. The new Gmail offering, for example, uses search technology to group e-mails - that's the radical departure, not the advertising or the large amount of storage.
I even use Google's "site search" ability when I want to find information at Microsoft.com, because it's faster and more efficient than Microsoft's own search. Microsoft might have better search ability in Longhorn, which might show up on your desktop within three years. It won't be much of a story then, and it certainly isn't one now.