Microsoft Corp. , which is challenging market leader Google Inc. in the online search market, demonstrated for the first time a search engine that looks for information on computer hard drives as well as information on the Web.
The world's largest software maker had hinted before that it was interested in offering search technology for information beyond the Web, but Microsoft vice president Yusuf Mehdie gave the clearest signal yet that Microsoft would enter the local hard drive search space, considered the next battleground among search technology providers.
"We will be able to search beyond the Web in a very fast fashion," Mehdie told analysts and reporters gathered at Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, headquarters for its annual analysts meeting.
"We have made a lot of progress," Mehdie said, but did not give a launch date or time frame for the new technology.
Microsoft, Google and Yahoo Inc. are positioning themselves for major upgrades over the next year as they try to attract more users and advertising revenue by enhancing their search services.
The competitors have also shifted their attention toward providing search tools for information buried in computer hard drives.
Earlier this month, Microsoft bought Lookout, a small program that allows users of its Outlook e-mail, contacts and scheduling program to bypass the search tools provided by Microsoft and sift through e-mail, contacts and other information with keywords.
Results by Lookout, which can also search through files on the hard drive, are returned nearly instantaneously.
Microsoft gave no indication whether it used any technology from Lookout for its new search technology.
"We wanted to show you a local PC and e-mail searching that we build as a joint effort across the company," Mehdie said Thursday.
In a demonstration, Mehdie typed search terms into a prototype version of MSN Toolbar, which runs as an add-on to the Internet Explorer browser.
Search results, such as e-mail, e-mail attachments, pictures and documents, were also returned nearly instantaneously. Results from the Web for the same search terms were displayed on a separate pane to the right.