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Google plays down Microsoft search plans

An executive from the search company says he doesn't expect to see a credible product from the software giant for years.

A Google executive downplayed the looming threat of search competition from Microsoft, saying his company doesn't expect to see a credible product from the software giant for years.

"Rather than worry about some big promise coming down five years from now, we need to focus on innovation now," Salar Kamangar, product development director at Google, said Wednesday on a panel at Stanford Business School's first annual technology conference.

His comments came only a week after Microsoft's MSN outlined plans for its own next-generation Internet search engine, the first version of which will launch later this year. The company also is developing search technology for Longhorn, the next version of the Windows operating system, which will allow people to search documents, as well as various applications like e-mail and the Web, all from their desktop. Plans for Longhorn are slated to come to fruition in 2006.

Meanwhile, Google is making a play of its own for desktop search. Late last year, it began testing a desktop search application that lets people find information from the Internet without a Web browser. The company also recently announced that it will offer free, Web-based e-mail, a move that some industry watchers say is just a step away from a Google desktop service.

"Will Google's new, free e-mail system, Gmail, be just the first of many things we'll see in a new Google desktop? If so, Microsoft could have a lot more to worry about than just Web search," search engine pundit Danny Sullivan wrote in his Search Engine Watch newsletter this week.

At the conference, Kamangar, who helped write the first business plan for Google in 1999, talked about the company's innovation in personalization, localized search and advertising. He also used his time on the panel to talk about Google's benefits over rivals. One of his comments was aimed specifically at undercutting rival Yahoo. He said that Google does not collect payment from companies for inclusion in its search index--a service called paid inclusion that Yahoo recently re-launched for advertisers.

"It's important to us not to mix paid information with the Web index," Kamangar said.

Later in the conference, Yahoo's vice president of search, Tim Cadogan, described his company's paid inclusion program as an "insurance policy" for Web operators to ensure they're in the database, but it by no means insures their position in results.

Switching gears, Google was asked by panel moderator Jim Pitkow, CEO of news search company Moreover Technologies, about its long-held position against becoming a Web portal, following the introduction of portal-like services such as home-page publishing and free e-mail.

Kamangar replied by saying that Google is not a closed environment while portals are--the company drives people to other publishers' content and services, not its own. "Google's not a portal," he said.