Microsoft has found an unlikely new partner to help promote Windows XP: Google.
While senior Microsoft executives pit the company against Google in a looming internet search war, the company last week started offering a Google search tool for download from the Microsoft.com website.
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Google's Deskbar is included in Microsoft's Partner Pack for Windows, a collection of Microsoft and third-party products released last week that Microsoft describes on its website as "the ultimate application package" for a Windows XP PC. (www.microsoft.com/windows/partnerpack/)
The Deskbar adds a search box to the Windows taskbar, allowing users to search the web with Google without having to start a web browser (deskbar.google.com/).
Other applications in the Partner Pack include Computer Associates International's eTrust EZ Antivirus 2005 and Post-it Software Notes from 3M.
Microsoft's promotion of the Google Deskbar comes as it works to deliver a beta version of its own MSN Search engine and a desktop search application by the end of this year.
"We should see some good MSN search technology in this calendar year, probably late in the second half, and we're going to have a heck of a great race in search between Google, Microsoft and Yahoo," said Microsoft chief financial officer John Connors.
Inclusion of the Google Deskbar in the Windows Partner Pack is an example of how Google can be a partner for Microsoft's large Windows group while at the same time a rival to MSN, a relatively small Microsoft group that in June ended its first profitable year ever, said Joe Wilcox, a Jupiter Research senior analyst.
"While MSN Search may be in hot competition with Google, for the Windows platform Google is a valuable partner," Wilcox said.
With Windows XP adoption lagging, Microsoft's biggest challenge right now is promoting Windows XP's capabilities, Wilcox said.
"Over the past couple months, Microsoft has stepped up XP evangelism, in part by showing the capability of partner products that extend the operating system’s capabilities. The products available with the Partner Pack are consistent with that approach," he said.
Another reason for Microsoft to include the Google Deskbar in Partner Pack was because it was built using Microsoft technology.
"Microsoft is pleased that Google recognised the potential of the Windows platform and the .net Framework and chose to use it to enable the delivery of a great search application," a Microsoft spokeswoman said.
Google spokesman Steve Langdon said bundling the Deskbar in the Windows Partner Pack is an example of industry collaboration. "From time to time we work with Microsoft and this is an example of that," he said.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service