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Apple and MS Battle For Desktop Search Supremacy 707

markmcb writes "As Microsoft and Apple go back and forth about who came up with what idea first, it's been hard to tell who the real innovaters are. Michael Gartenberg and Jim Allchin of Microsoft give some fair opinions on the current desktop search battle. While they do give credit to Apple's iTunes for search inspiration and to Apple being first out of the box in the OS race, they both imply that Microsoft will provide more robust features with the release of Longhorn."
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Apple and MS Battle For Desktop Search Supremacy

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  • I'm amazed to not see it in the blurb, considering the love affair with Google. I know it works better than 'find' for me.
  • empty promises... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by utexaspunk ( 527541 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:39PM (#12284360)
    they both imply that Microsoft will provide more robust features with the release of Longhorn.

    It's pretty easy to make empty promises with a product that won't even be released until next year. The point is, OSX has this feature NOW...
  • Re:They both suck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KillerDeathRobot ( 818062 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:40PM (#12284376) Homepage
    Searching for stuff requires you to have organized it well in the first place.

    No it doesn't. The point of searching is to bypass organization or to impose organization on data according to current needs.
  • Dunno... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:40PM (#12284377)
    I rarely search for files, and the current Mac OS X and WinXP search systems suffice. I guess I'm just not the target user type for this stuff.

    I just keep my hard drive carefully arranged and orderly. Folders are your friend. Nest them with wild abandon. I also print out any interesting info tidbits (stuff I know I'll reference multiple times) I find online, and put them in a couple large notebooks that I maintain.

  • And... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:41PM (#12284396)
    ...I'm sure that Apple won't have been doing anything in the meantime.

    Like, oh, working on Mac OS X 10.5.

    Which will, quite literally, probably be shipping around the time Longhorn ships.
  • impromptu poll (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spoonyfork ( 23307 ) <spoonyfork&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:41PM (#12284399) Journal
    Does anyone else out there consider themselves an above-average to power user and completely not care about the desktop search battle?

    I'm sure there are those that do care and think everyone else should too, and good for them, but I want to hear from those that don't care for whatever reason.

  • Search Technology (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:42PM (#12284405) Homepage
    The best way I found to find files on my computer is to keep them organized. Keeping them organized allows me to find files without having to keep an index of what's on there, or worry about whether a certain program can tell what's actually in the file. In the end it all comes down to proper organization.
  • Re:They both suck (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Enigma_Man ( 756516 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:42PM (#12284410) Homepage
    Yes it does.

    Even if a desktop searching tool lets you search by text contained within a document, or the name of a file, or what have you, you still have to name it, or put text within it in a way that's organized. The user is required to give it structure to begin with.

    Basically, organization is up to the user, whether it be by creating organized directories, or by creating logical names.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:43PM (#12284422)
    "Tiger is nice in that they've put search capability in a lot of places, but there's a lot more (in Longhorn)," Allchin said.

    Referring to an OS that is at least 15 months from release in the present tense is plain crazy, especially when comparing its features to those of an OS that will be on store shelves in 10 days. He might as well just say Longhorn will cure cancer and make your breath minty fresh while you use it. No matter what features it has, they're not doing anybody any good at 6PM on April 29th, 2005-- Tiger's will.
  • Re:Uhh, GOOGLE? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amiga Lover ( 708890 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:44PM (#12284439)
    This I find interesting too.

    While they do give credit to Apple's iTunes for search inspiration and to Apple being first out of the box in the OS race, they both imply that Microsoft will provide more robust features with the release of Longhorn.

    The same thing was being said before the release of Panther. The strengths of longhorn were touted and Panther was conceded as being "admittedly out first, but longhorn will be better". Now 18 months later we have Tiger that is 'admittedly out first, but longhorn will be better".

    I bet when Apple announce their next OS (let's call it Ocelot) the commentary in the media will again be...

    "Ocelot is admittedly out first, but longhorn will be better".

    Of course, the world will suck it up and nod their heads, agreeing that this fabled new version of Windows will be better, sometime in the future, while ignoring the last half decade of "admittedly good" OS X versions which ACTUALLY EXIST AND CAN BE USED!
  • grep anyone? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by danmart ( 660791 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:45PM (#12284444) Homepage Journal
    Breakthrough technology: a file search tool that finds things on your pc. Who could have thought up something so innovative and so 2005? Except wasnt file find in the first release of msdos and unix? Or is the breakthrough the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner?
  • Hold on a second. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moofie ( 22272 ) <lee@[ ] ['rin' in gap]> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:46PM (#12284460) Homepage
    You mean that two Microsoft honchos say that the product they will probably ship sometime next year is better than the stuff that's available (more or less) right now?

    Wow. Stop the presses.
  • Re:impromptu poll (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BandwidthHog ( 257320 ) <inactive.slashdo ...> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:51PM (#12284539) Homepage Journal
    And for the stuff that falls under multiple categories, which folder should that go in?

    [cue "but what about symlinks?" responses]
  • Re:impromptu poll (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:55PM (#12284593)
    Only file search I use on OS X is by content. I index folders I know I'll need to get into, so when I know I had X in some file in "School Stuff" and so I search by content.
  • Inovation == Bloat (Score:2, Insightful)

    by timigoe ( 797580 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @02:58PM (#12284626) Homepage
    The only problem with all this inovation is the OS itself gets bigger and bigger and far more tied into the core, meaning more problems if theres a security 'blip', which we know will happen. No software is ever 100% secure.
  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:00PM (#12284651) Homepage
    Vaporware will always be better than a shipping product. Just go back through history looking at every vaporware announcement just in the 20th century alone. "My vaporware product will do everything Joe's shipping software does, plus X and Y and Z! So don't buy the currently shipping product. Wait for my vaporware."

    Maybe it is time to change that old IBM joke into a Microsoft joke. You know,the one where Ballmer/Gates/et.all just sit on the edge of the bed telling her how good it is going to be, but they never do anything. Wish I could remember that joke.
  • Re:impromptu poll (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:00PM (#12284658) Journal
    Does anyone else out there consider themselves an above-average to power user and completely not care about the desktop search battle?

    I care, because knowing what utilities can and can't do, and how to take advantage of the former and cover up for the latter, is what makes me a "power user".

  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:02PM (#12284679) Homepage
    MORE advanced than grep?

    Maybe more (nontechnical) user-freindly. But can these search engines use RegEx syntax? Hell No.

    In my book, that's LESS advanced.
  • by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:07PM (#12284753)
    Totally 'Microsoft PR', nothing more.

    First of all, OS X and Mac OS had a superb search FOR ages which works VERY good. Windows search compare to that is a JOKE. Spotlight is just more branded and search more metadata and gives it in more user friendly form. But as search on my OS X stations I just click on input where i start to type file name which I look for and...whola! there it is.

    And second - Longhorn is 3 YEARS still to go! It is like middle ages for history! For christ sakes, Microsoft must be desperate to push such PR stunt like this.

    And yeah, as open source advocat, I have to say that Beagle will certanly rock the world too - because it is actively developed and pushed by Novel/Ximian guys. And of coarse, let's not forget king of the hill in search now - Google.

    And if it is not paid article - however it looks like - then it is such "we just love Microsoft" style press which I simply can't stand anymore.
  • Re:grep anyone? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:08PM (#12284769) Homepage
    The search tools being discussed are NOT like grep.

    For instance, if you have some text in an OpenDocument format (i.e. the file format of, and soon KOffice and maybe AbiWord) then you will never find that text using grep. (Because an file is actually a ZIP file.)

    Search tools need to have custom plug ins that know how to search specific filetypes. Searching an HTML file, then use a plugin that won't find the tags, for example. Searching a GIF or JPEG, then search the image comment, but this requires knowing something about the layout of the GIF or JPEG file. Trying to search within a PDF, etc.
  • Re:Uhh, GOOGLE? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Morgahastu ( 522162 ) <bshel AT WEEZERr ... ove my fave band> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:17PM (#12284884) Journal
    This reminds me of then the Dreamcast came out. Most people didn't buy it because the PS2 "would be better". Thing is that the PS2 came out a year and a half later and it wasn't better, the graphics were slightly poorer (IMHO) than the Dreamcast and it was over a year late.
  • Re:Uhh, GOOGLE? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HeelToe ( 615905 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:22PM (#12284952) Homepage
    But the PS2 also clearly took the market out from under the Dreamcast.

    The PS built a reputation on having good games to play on the platform. I think this was a large part of why people waited for the PS2 - banking on good games for the platform.
  • Re:Uhh, GOOGLE? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CarlinWithers ( 861335 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:23PM (#12284969)
    There was a difference though. The reputation of Sony was improving during that time period. And SEGA had some terrible previous flops, Saturn anyone?

    With the current climate, Google and Apple are gaining public favour. Whereas Microsoft is plagued by favourability problems such as adware/spyware/viruses.

  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:29PM (#12285033)
    How do I search? I use "locate", "|", and "grep". That's it. OK, sometimes I use "which" and "find". But I don't even have to use these very often, because I organize my work.

    Why is desktop search such a big deal again? Are people just writing files to random locations on their hard drives? Even when I have to use Windows at work, I put things in logical places so I don't have to search for them.

  • Re:Uhh, GOOGLE? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:37PM (#12285108)
    The PS2 has a DVD player, the Dreamcast didn't. It might not be important to you, I know it wasn't for me, but everything I've seen says that was the nail in the coffin for the Dreamcast. So in that sence, it was better.
  • by XMyth ( 266414 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:41PM (#12285162) Homepage
    Good for you.
  • by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <(gundbear) (at) (> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:46PM (#12285213) Homepage
    "It all comes down to proper organization"

    The point of Spotlight and desktop search, in general, is that the computer handles the proper organization.

    Who would be more anal, perfect, and organized than a computer? Someone with OCD?
  • Battle... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by taskforce ( 866056 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:56PM (#12285325) Homepage
    While there's a true battle of the OSes with regards to features, (Tiger and Longhorn are both very good OSes from what I've seen) that battle is for individuals to make up their mind on, not market forces.

    Surely nobody can realistically believe that there's going to be a real battle of numbers in the same way there is for games consoles/competing digital disk formats etc?

    I don't know the exact figures, but I do know that Windows gets about the same number of new users each year as Mac OS has in there entire installed base... No matter how good Mac OS is (and I'm sure it's very good) it's not like we don't know with infinity+1:1 odds which OS is going to be the most widely adopted?

  • Re:Uhh, GOOGLE? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:57PM (#12285343) Homepage Journal
    They're great but they don't search inside files.

    Actually what makes all of this interesting is that Apple and Microsoft are improving the search features so they're usable. Right now, for example, you wouldn't browse your hard drive using the search features of your OS: it's quicker to to to Documents/Essays/CMP101 and open "Data Hierarchies.doc" than it is to open Find File from start, look over the various criteria settings, enter words you know appear in the document, and hit Find.

    What Apple and Microsoft are doing is encouraging applications to create indexes that go with every file they create, so searching can just be a matter of going to a ubiquitous Search box and entering whatever it is you want to find. Within seconds, you'll have the files and objects that are relevent. You'll end up using it as your default way of finding documents, rather than navigating your file heirarchy.

    Less Exploring, more Finding. Ironic, in some ways.

  • Re:Uhh, GOOGLE? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by topham ( 32406 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:04PM (#12285425) Homepage
    Normally I would agree with your statement.

    But in this case the point isn't the user interface to the search capabilities. It is important, but not the technical issue.

    The technical issue is the filesystem / operating system has the necessary hooks to reduce the subjective overhead to zero.

    By having the hooks integrated such that indexing occurs when files are updated, moved, or otherwise changed the search capabilities are dynamic. It isn't necessary to scan the file system to detect changes, the changes are already known and the search query itself simply has to refresh. It doesn't scan the filesystem for the relevant files, it simply looks them up in it's index.

    I've used BeOS and I am hopeful Apple's Spotlight will match, or exceed BeOS' implementation. In my mind it is imposible for Microsoft to do it better, So I don't understand that part of the issue.

    I believe Apple is supplying the necessary tools and information so that a new file, created by an application can have it's filesystem details index, as well as call a custom routine to pull any application specific data from the file and have that indexed.

    Lets say you have a new word processor that stores it's data in a compressed format; a routine for the application could process the file and update the index with all the keywords, perhaps all the text, etc automatically.

    A third party company would have difficulty putting forth a standard for such a function, and would have to support the major applications themselves.

  • by arminw ( 717974 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:13PM (#12285523)
    ...In the end it all comes down to proper organization...

    Indeed true. Some people are forever looking for certain physical things, such as their car keys, cell phone and other small items. The computer is like a workshop. A workshop with its tools well organized is a pleasure, but a disorganized one, with tools mixed up is a real pain. Organization in a computer is just as beneficial in getting work done as it is in a real workshop. Even so, adding a good search system should not affect an organized computer user much, but might help those who are not well organized.
  • Re:Uhh, GOOGLE? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hahiss ( 696716 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:14PM (#12285534) Homepage
    The fair test seems to be this:

    I can get instant results with OS X Tiger vs. I will get better results, someday, maybe, with Longhorn.

    In other news, Low-Level Microsoft employees have been using the following pick-up line at local pubs:``while Brad Pitt may be better looking I am *now*, in about 2 years I will be SO much better looking.

  • Re:Uhh, GOOGLE? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:23PM (#12285636)
    That was a major factor in favor of the PS2. It is somewhat harder to really "get" today given that you can buy a good DVD player for under $50, but back in 2000 DVD players were over $200, so a $399 PS2 that can also play DVDs was easier to justify as a purchase than a console like the Dreamcast that cannot play DVD.

  • by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:10PM (#12286127)
    "Referring to an OS that is at least 15 months from release in the present tense is plain crazy,"

    Not Really. Longhorn Beta 1 ships in just over a month, and the RTM date is set in May 2006.

    "No matter what features it has, they're not doing anybody any good at 6PM on April 29th, 2005"

    Yeah, and Tiger's features aren't doing anybody any good at 5:59PM on April 29, 2005.

    Yes, Tiger will be released before Longhorn. But, when you get down to it, neither product has shipped yet. Right now, it's prerelease vs. prerelease.

    Microsoft *will* get Longhorn out the door in 2006. Whether it will be a good product has yet to be seen.

    Don't sell them short, though. They have a *lot* of programming talent and they *can* release a solid product. More and more, it's looking like they will *have* to release a solid product.
  • Re:Uhh, GOOGLE? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dannannan ( 470647 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:15PM (#12286161)
    Windows XP comes with a thing called the "Indexing Service" that periodically crawls through the disk and builds the index that you speak of. It typically waits to do its indexing when your machine is idle, but I have that service permanently disabled because my disk is loud and the churning causes me to panic for fear that my supposedly idle machine has been 0wn3d.

  • by joh ( 27088 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:43PM (#12286404)
    Just look at what file managers have become. They literally encourage putting everything in a hierarchy one level deep. Neither the Windows Explorer nor the Mac Finder can really cope with deep hierarchies -- you're just lost after two or three levels. So you put everything in a handful of "folders" in your ~ and then, well, then you'll be in need of a tool to find things.

    Not that I think that meta-data is a bad thing. More than one way to get things organized is always a good thing. I think that while all this stuff is mostly PR, you and me will be able to put it to good use. Just ignore the hype and enjoy the fallout.

  • by Enrique1218 ( 603187 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:02PM (#12286572) Journal
    cNet is bias against Apple. I wonder why they have Microsoft executive commenting on another company's product. Where is Phil Schiller or executive in charge of OS development commenting. I bet they didn't bother to asked. cNet has pretty much trolled this story since Apple released Tiger in various forms. I don't wear a tin foil hat but I can read between the lines.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:51PM (#12287541)
    Do you know how many people stick documents, well, wherever they may fall? They have _no_ clue to navigate to c:\Documents and Settings\\Documents -- it's where Office type documents will default. They just see "My Documents" on their Desktop and go to town. Or save everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) to their Desktop. Or just C:\ in most other cases. Heck, when forced to use Windows I'll go to c:\Data and/or use c:\Temp (each created on the spot).

    Otherwise, yeah, I'm with you 100%. Except I tend to over name my files, and am anal about what goes where and why. A simpe find | grep usually does the trick for me.

    Even in the Mac world I find people putting stuff all over. / is up for grabs. ~/Library is usually not a good place, but they're there too. ~/Documents? I stay away from it as too many applications like to use it for settings as well.

    Every grandma type Linux user I've seen sticks everything into ~/ for no particular reason. Those are rare -- and typical Linux users are anal in their storage as well...

    I remember, way back when, on the "main frames" at college (Unix based) people were always "losing" files. .Let' .where.they.go.

    Who will win "desktop search"? Apple. Hands down. For functionality. Otherwise for the numbers, today, it will be Google in the Wintel world.
  • by NutscrapeSucks ( 446616 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @08:13PM (#12287690)
    Just as a historical point, Apple took an astoundingly long time to respond to Win95. In late 1995, the only way to get your Mac on the Internet was to warez a copy of MacTCP (academic only software), and then use this really crappy FreePPP thing. Apple finally got around to shipping OpenTransport, but it was just horrifically buggy in the beginning.

    Win95 was the most hyped thing in computer industry history, and Apple's management was so screwed up at the time they just ignored it (other than the snarky Win95=Mac84 bumper stickers).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @09:56PM (#12288512)
    "Referring to an OS that is at least 15 months from release in the present tense is plain crazy,"

    Not Really. Longhorn Beta 1 ships in just over a month, and the RTM date is set in May 2006.

    Yes, really. Until it's preloaded on systems, and in boxes on store shelves, and can be bought and used by the public at large, it doesn't exist. Betas don't count for shit, even if Microsoft says they're okay for use in a production environment (HA!). Neither does some RTM date that's more than a year away and not even remotely set in stone no matter what Microsoft says.

"In my opinion, Richard Stallman wouldn't recognise terrorism if it came up and bit him on his Internet." -- Ross M. Greenberg