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Apple takes first round in search wars

It's largely been a war of words so far. But on Tuesday Apple has won the first real battle over Microsoft in the race to bring better search to desktop PCs.

Apple said it will ship its new operating system code-named Tiger on April 29. Tiger includes new search technology called Spotlight.

The update makes it far easier to find data stored locally on a Mac, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs claims: "Tiger's groundbreaking new features, like Spotlight and Dashboard, will change the way people use their computers, and drive our competitors nuts trying to copy them," he said in the statement.

Not that Apple's main rival, Microsoft, hasn't tried. In fact, you could say that Microsoft kicked off this battle in the first place.

Three years ago, CEO Steve Ballmer and Windows exec Jim Allchin told that the company was ressurecting a decade-old plan to simplify search. That resulted in WinFS, a new file system originally planned for Longhorn, the next major release of Windows.

But Longhorn has been delayed until next year, and WinFS has been downscaled to a developer test release. The plan isn't expected to finally see the light of day until decade's end.

Microsoft most likely will add better search to Longhorn, however. Expect to hear more about those plans in the coming months as new test releases become available.