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Microsoft Steps Up Its Search

In its latest volley against Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT) will roll out a new free version of its Windows desktop search tool for corporate users.

Microsoft will announce the new search tool Tuesday at an annual European IT conference being held this year in Barcelona. The enterprise product builds on a free consumer desktop search tool first unveiled by Microsoft in December. This new enterprise version of Windows desktop search goes farther by enabling IT departments to install, manage and customize the desktop search tool for a company's entire workforce.

Susan Feldman, vice president of content technologies at research firm IDC, says the new enterprise version should address security issues that have led some IT departments to ban workers from using desktop search products and prompted some workers to sidestep their IT administrators and use the products anyway.

"Knowledge workers realize they can't find their stuff, and therefore they have downloaded a variety of search tools, going around their IT administrators usually," says Feldman. But "that can create some significant security holes for an organization."

Part of the reason many workers have taken things into their own hands is that the built-in search tool in the Windows operating system has been so woefully inadequate, taking far longer to scour a computer than a Web search would take.

Google grabbed headlines last year when it beat Microsoft to market with its own desktop search engine that was able to find content across the desktop as fast a Web search, offering a huge improvement over Microsoft's built-in Windows product.

The move by Google led many tech observers to speculate that it had even bigger ambitions to unseat Microsoft's dominance on the desktop with a competing operating system or Office-like products. It also prompted Microsoft to accelerate the launch of its competing desktop product to December. The software behemoth originally had planned to include desktop search in its next operating system, which isn't due out until next year.

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