Google under pressure over desktop search

Analysts claim Google's desktop search product isn't enterprise-ready as Microsoft launches its own offering into the market

Analyst firm Gartner has put out a statement warning businesses to steer clear of Google's desktop search tool until a more robust, enterprise-ready version is released.

While the tool is potentially extremely attractive to employees, IT managers should discourage users from adopting it and instead opt for a more a more business-ready, secure search engine, Gartner claimed in a recent research note.

"We have no problem with it being used for personal use. Our concern is when it is used in a corporation we have some security and privacy issues. Google says it will collect only non-personal data, but in a corporation how can you monitor what’s being collected?" said Gartner research director Maurene Grey.

Gartner claims that the relative immaturity of the Google product leaves businesses without a solid background of sensitivity to security and support. In particular, Google's "Consent to Collect Nonpersonal Information" is a one-sided contract in that the user must trust Google will make the right decisions as to what information it will collect. 

Grey said that while the analyst group is not suggesting that Google is doing anything malicious, there are issues around the sensitivity of data.

"We're just saying it's not good practice for business organisations to do this. If the desktop tool was owned by the company, that would be fine. But [data] is going out of the office and there's no way of knowing what that data is," she added.

Responding to Gartner's comments, Dave Girouard, Google general manager of enterprise product,s said that the tool was never intended to be an enterprise-ready application in its current incarnation and the company is working on a more robust version for large-scale deployments.

"Google Desktop Search is a beta product and isn't at this point intended for broad corporate distribution. Among other efforts, we are working on a version of GDS that is intended for corporate use. In the meanwhile, we encourage corporations to try the GDS beta in pilot settings in order to assess its usefulness and provide feedback to Google," he said.

Desktop search tools have also faced other criticisms this week from leading security experts who claim they could be used by virus writers to create more targeted malware.

Google went live with its desktop beta in October but other search providers are chasing its lead hard. Yahoo and Ask Jeeves are planning similar releases while Microsoft announced the availability of an MSN branded desktop search tool this week. The Web portal introduced its MSN Toolbar Suite in a beta version on Monday. The software lets people search the contents of their hard drive, including Microsoft Outlook email, calendar items, contacts and Office documents.

Gartner claims personal search will be a volatile market through 2006 with the competition between Google and Microsoft particularly vociferous. The analyst claims that by launching Desktop search, Google has got a jump on Microsoft in gaining consumer mind-share. "Microsoft will undoubtedly use aggressive tactics to combat Google as it seeks to integrate desktop search as part of its desktop user interface," the analyst claimed in a statement.

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