Google has updated its Desktop Search software suite, raising the stakes once more in its battle against Yahoo! and MSN and neatly sidestepping the browser wars.
The beta Sidebar utility for Windows, available as a free download, provides one-click access to the internet, pulling information like email, news, weather, stocks and more from the web. You can even upload and view photos, store bookmarks and view RSS news feeds.
Naturally, Sidebar also includes direct access to the Google search engine - but it can also search your hard drive for files much quicker than Windows' built-in search facility.
The Desktop Search suite also builds search bars into your deskbar, and even into your Outlook email client. If Google weren't so insanely brilliant, we'd be concerned that it's taking over our lives. Especially when the installation procedure invites you to 'Enable Advanced Features' with a warning that 'you may be sending non-personal usage information and information about the websites you visit to Google'. To be fair, that means if you click on mostly tech stories on Google News, it'll give you more of them.
While many have speculated that Google may launch its own browser, it seems this selection of software is designed to relegate Internet Explorer to an occasional usage bit of software, rather than the centre of your online world. We're not complaining.