Gartner: Google's Sidebar is best in class

After condemning the first version of Google Desktop as insecure, analysts at Gartner have welcomed version two as the best product of its type on the market

Analyst group Gartner has welcomed the second version of Google's desktop search application, saying that it is an improvement on competitive offerings from Yahoo and Apple.

This is a significant endorsement for Google, as Gartner had criticised the first version of the desktop search tool for creating worrying security issues for IT managers and chief information officers.

The beta version of Google Desktop Version 2, which was launched on Monday, features a new "sidebar" which sits on screen displaying the user's latest emails, information from RSS feeds, photos, weather and stock reports as well as faster and more tailored access to Google search facilities.

Allen Weiner, Gartner’s search engine analyst, said Google Desktop was "interesting in the context of the Web-browser market which has been relying on the same technology for 10 years". Google Desktop was "a real advance", said Weiner and "a step forward" over other technologies like Yahoo's Konfabulator and Apple's Widgets.

"Search is call about the context now and this really uses the context," Weiner told ZDNet UK.

In order to better define the context for searches, engines such Google Desktop need to know more about users, what they use their search engines for, their favourites places on the Web and their favourites software places and it is this that worries privacy experts.

"It's a simple risk/reward situation," said Weiner. "In order to get better at searching for you, [the search engine] needs to know more about you. If people aren't happy with search facilities they need to decide if it is worth revealing the information."

Gartner's criticism of Google in December centred on the issue of the security of the first release of Google desktop in a corporate setting, arguing that users would be handing over information in an insecure manner.

Weiner acknowledged that it was a tricky issue for Google as it tries to balance a demand for better search systems, which require more transparent information, with the need for security. "I believe that within the context of the organisation [Google] is dealing with the [security] issue fairly," said Weiner.