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Move over, Google Sidebar

Watson 2.0 for Windows offers desktop-search customization--without raising any real privacy concerns.

A Chicago-based company is set to launch technology that will compete with Google Desktop Search and its Sidebar customization feature.

Watson 2.0, to be launched on Friday by Intellext, is designed to understand the context of the text a computer user is reading or creating and automatically offer relevant news articles, Word documents and other Web- or PC-based information--without the privacy concerns Google's service has raised--and in real time.

The context-sensitive Windows search tool is based on technology developed at Northwestern University.

"Nothing gets sent to our servers," as with Google's Sidebar service, said Al Wasserberger, chief executive of Intellext. (People using Sidebar only get the customized news and other feeds if they opt in to sending information to Google servers about what documents and Web pages are being viewed.)

"Watson 2.0 uses an artificial-intelligence approach to understand what you are working on and formulate queries," he said. "It sends the queries to the online (information) sources and compares the results against the document you are working on and then sorts (the results) according to relevance."

Like Google's Desktop Search and Sidebar, the software scours data from a variety of sources on the computer, Word documents, e-mail, spreadsheets, and from Web sites, including news sources and blogs, but it offers up relevant information in real time rather than learning over time, as Sidebar seems to do.

Watson 2.0's side-pane interface does not squeeze in other information, such as a scratch pad, photos, quick-view history and weather, that Google's Sidebar offers, but it does take up a tad bit more real estate, or space on the screen, with the results it does offer.

Watson 2.0 also allows the user to add and modify the information sources being searched.