Linux seller gunning for search

Searching on Google will be as "old-fashioned as going to Blockbuster for videos," Linspire CEO says.

Linux seller Linspire has embedded search capabilities into its newly upgraded operating system in an effort to make looking for news or products as easy as highlighting a word on a Web page or e-mail.

The company, formerly known as Lindows, introduced the new "hot words" search function on its latest upgrade of operating system software on Oct. 28.

Michael Robertson, Linspire's CEO, says he believes OS searching will have a significant impact on the market.

"I'm confident that it won't be too long before going to will be as unnecessary and old-fashioned as going to Blockbuster for videos, since search will be accessible right from every program on your computer," he said in a letter to Linspire users posted on his Web site.

Robertson believes that by embedding search directly into the operating system, the search experience will become inordinately more convenient and less time-consuming. Instead of cutting and pasting words into the search engine toolbar on Google or Yahoo, users can highlight and click on a word or phrase and immediately do an Internet, shopping or news search.

Another feature uses a thin, green line to auto-underline words people may want to search with. Pausing the mouse over these words brings up the search options without having to click.

"Hot words" are embedded into every Web page and e-mail message on Linspire, and users can fine-tune the searches to best suit their needs.

Interestingly, the "hot words" idea is similar in concept to an ill-fated Microsoft technology called "Smart Tags" originally planned for Windows XP's debut in 2001.

The company chose to remove Smart Tags from Windows XP before its debut. Critics complained that the feature gave Microsoft undue leverage over competitors by tying the Smart Tag links to Microsoft products and Web sites.

Robertson believes Linspire's advancements are just the first step in a widespread trend to embed search technology into operating systems.

But he said he doesn't believe traditional search technologies will disappear entirely. In fact, Linspire uses Google's and Yahoo's search engines to perform the searches.

Linspire's new functions have hit the market just as operating system rival Microsoft has updated its own search tool. Robertson believes the new features could push Microsoft to upgrade its browser technology sooner than it had anticipated.

"Microsoft is in an ideal spot, because they control the browser and search engine," he said. "But the challenge for them is that they won't be upgrading their browser until the Longhorn release, which is expected at the earliest in 2006. But I think all this attention around search could pressure them to release a new browser sooner rather than later."

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