Desktop Search The Key To Your Mobile Life?
By Mike Masnick, Mon Dec 06 20:45:00 GMT 2004

While searching the desktop seems like the hot new thing from various search companies, some are pointing out that the next step is to tie your desktop search to your mobile phone.

As much as people like the idea that the Internet will allow us all to get rid of local storage and leverage great big servers in the sky to store all our data, reality has kept things a little more local. While certain applications have moved to using remote storage, people still fill their huge local hard drives with data for a reason. In some sense, this may be holding back some forms of mobile computing. If the data you need is on your desktop, your mobile device becomes noticeably less useful.

There have been some attempts to get beyond this. There's software that will let you log into your desktop from other machines (including mobile devices) and there are tools to sync your desktop to a server on a regular basis. However, if you're mobile, these still have some limitations. The mobile interface and the desktop interface don't always mesh -- especially if you're on the go and just need to dig up a quick bit of info from your desktop.

Venture capitalist Kevin Laws has noticed that a solution may be on the way -- even if those responsible for it haven't noticed it yet. A number of startups, along with all of the major search engines, are working furiously on desktop search products. These tools will scan your desktop and record everything from email to web sites surfed to word processing documents. Some, like Google's beta desktop search tool, will then integrate the results into the standard Google interface. What Laws has noticed is that by adding a simple interface between the desktop search and a web server, you could easily search your desktop from afar, and quickly download whatever information you needed. If you made changes, you could then quickly upload them -- or even (if the companies got ambitious) have it sync automatically.

There are, of course, risks. Already, Google's desktop search has been attacked as a security and privacy nightmare for anyone who ever uses shared computers. Opening up a web-based interface could just add more fuel to the fire. However, if it were done well, and set up securely, it could be a simple method for tying together separate archives of data, while making the interface much more mobile friendly -- both in terms of the display and the quick, on-the-go nature of mobile data retrieval. It's just a matter of time before someone starts offering something like this. However, it's worth noting that, once again, an application that could be incredibly useful could come about almost by accident -- by companies working on an application for a different reason. It's yet another reason why the industry needs to learn to open up, and see what happens.