Google is at work developing a desktop application designed to search personal computer hard drives, according to a report in today’s New York Times. Citing “several people with knowledge of the company’s plans,” the article says Google has been working on the project, code-named Puffin, for about a year. It also says the new software will be offered as a free download, raising the possibility it could be supported by advertising – as are most of Google’s consumer search tools.
A Google desktop application is viewed primarily as a reaction to Microsoft’s moves in the search space. It would give Google a more prominent position on the largely Microsoft-dominated desktop. (Google already has a browser toolbar and a “deskbar” that provides Web search functionality outside the browser.) The application would head off Microsoft’s own plans to provide an improved search experience in its long-delayed next Windows version, code-named Longhorn.
Google’s move onto the desktop occurs just as desktop-dominating Microsoft builds its own answer to the Web search engine. The software giant has made no secret of its plans, but hasn’t yet said when it will launch its new search engine.