Google Launches Deskbar

Cory Kincaid
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. –Googling just got one step easier, according to the popular search engine, which in recent weeks has publicly deliberated over whether to merge with Microsoft Corp. or file for an Initial Public Offering (IPO).

The verdict is still out on both of those moves, but in the interim, Google Labs went live today with a free software download called the Google Deskbar, which places a search feature in the Windows taskbar and streamlines the process of a performing a Google search.

For starters, there is no need for a browser window to be open. The Deskbar download blends Google's search functionality with the Windows operating system and makes it possible for users to perform search functions while working on a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, or an email browser.

Instead of launching a browser, the Deskbar displays search results in a small window box that rises above the Deskbar and overlays across a corner of the application being used. Results include paid listings at the top and AdWords boxes along the side, exactly as they appear when viewed from the browser.

Additionally, a pop-up menu provides links to Google services, non-U.S. Google searches, Google News, images, and other content sites for stock quotes, movie reviews, word definitions, and synonyms.

The Deskbar is always visible on the desktop and with a keystroke shortcut, the cursor can be moved without the need for a mouse.

The Deskbar supports keyboard commands including the Google web search (Control+Alt+G), Google news search (Control+N), Google image search (Control+I) Froogle (Control+F), or to display definitions for the highlighted term that Google has found on the web (Control+D).

According to Google, the Deskbar technology is in the early stages of development and the company has opened the floodgates to the user community to pitch in ideas and constructive criticism. Google is also asking interested users to commit to a program that will track their Deskbar usage.

The Deskbar will only work on a PC with Windows XP or Windows 2000 and with Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher, the company said.

As a strategic move, the Deskbar creates a permanent home for Google in the Microsoft Windows interface, whether Microsoft likes it or.

Industry analysts say that Microsoft is planning a similar feature with its paid search listing service of choice Overture, which will be offered through the Microsoft MSN portal.

Just last week, after declaring an interest in filing for an IPO, Google also confessed to a prolonged courtship with Microsoft that would have created a permanent home for Google's search service in the Microsoft software family while at the same time providing entry for Microsoft into the lucrative paid search advertising market.

However, if Google goes public, only strengthening its firm foothold in the search engine and paid search space, Microsoft could find itself an ill-equipped competitor, analysts say.