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Windows desktop search gets down to business

Microsoft offers a desktop search tool that makes it easier for businesses to manage and cubicle dwellers to search corporate networks.

To keep pace with rivals, Microsoft plans to announce a business version of its Windows Desktop Search application on Tuesday at the IT Forum in Barcelona.

Similar to the present version designed for consumers, Microsoft's new tool will allow businesses to decide just what gets indexed and searched on their corporate networks, as well as make it easier for IT managers to deploy the tool.

When it released the Windows Desktop Search program, Microsoft promised to release an enterprise version. Rival Google launched an enterprise version of its Google Desktop program earlier this month.

"These new enterprise-class enhancements to the desktop search capabilities we introduced last spring will empower IT professionals to deliver higher productivity, lower IT management costs and greater ease of use throughout their organizations," MSN Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdi said in a statement.

Microsoft released a beta version of its desktop search tool last December. The final version was released in May. Microsoft said the product will be available in 15 languages.

Desktop search has emerged as a key battleground for all of the Internet search players, including Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.

While largely comparable to the current version, Microsoft's business-oriented desktop search program will enable users to also search their corporate Intranet. Windows Desktop Search, though, will not index or crawl through corporate data. Instead, it will provide a gateway to a company's existing portal tools, whether that's Microsoft's SharePoint Server or a third-party product.

The enterprise version of Windows Desktop Search will further integrate its search abilities into Windows and Office. Searches from the Windows XP search bar, for example, will now default to Windows Desktop Search as opposed to the operating system's built-in search tool, which is slower because it does not use widespread indexing.

Also, searches from Outlook's MSN Toolbar will appear as part of the Outlook pane, rather than popping up in a separate window.

Unlike the consumer version, businesses will have the option of deploying Windows Desktop Search without also downloading the MSN Toolbar.

Microsoft hopes to add much of this new functionality to the consumer search tool as well. "We will be looking to enhance the consumer versions of our product later this year with similar features," product planner Heather Friedland said.