Microsoft 'Casino' Search Interface Built As Google Desktop Killer

Code-named Casino and referred to as OneView, the new application provides one user interface for searching across the desktop, intranets and the Web, according to Microsoft's Web site.

The intent is to crush Google's efforts in the enterprise intranet and desktop search market and prevent Google from using its leading search engine to push the company deeper into business software services, which the search giant announced Thursday.

Several solution providers said the Casino application -- similar to Google Desktop -- is in beta testing but isn't ready to ship yet. The application is expected to be integrated with Windows Vista and Windows Live Search.

"It's just like Google Desktop," said one source familiar with the project. "OneView gives you access to Windows Live Search. Windows Live Search indexes the whole environment, including local documents and networked documents, and OneView gives you total access to that information."

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The technology has been referred to as OneView, Windows Search 4, and Windows Search Preview by various Microsoft sources. One spokeswoman for the company emphasized that Microsoft has not made any decision about how or if it will productize Casino.

"Windows Search Preview, as "Casino" is now known, has been shown in some public forums as a prototype of the direction Windows Search technology is heading and a tool for refining that direction," according to a statement released by Microsoft Thursday. "It is not a preview of a specific product nor is it available publicly."

Microsoft originally planned to release Casino as part of the Windows Live line but opted to move the project to the Windows group and rename it Windows Search 4, according to an online news report on Casino in December. In the article, a Microsoft product manager is quoted as saying that Casino is being developed by the Windows Desktop Search team as well as a team in MSN Research that built a next-generation search prototype called Tesla.

Several Microsoft partners said they have been hearing about Casino for some time and expect it to be released as an add-on to Vista and eventually integrated into the operating system.

"I know a little about Casino but have been under the impression that it will not ship before the Windows Server 'Longhorn' wave and maybe Office 14," said one source who saw a brief demonstration of Casino.

Another source said Microsoft decided to offer Casino as an add-on like Internet Explorer, rather than as a Vista feature, to avoid any wrangling with the U.S. Justice Department, which is overseeing the antitrust consent decree against the Redmond, Wash., company.

However, it's clear that Microsoft is taking the search and business software services battle very seriously.

"Google is quickly moving into the enterprise software space, as well as preparing business software services, such as storage and e-mail," Microsoft said on its Web site last month in an entry about Casino. "Google is using its reputation in Web search to enter the enterprise market for intranet and desktop search. Google has the potential to both commoditize some of our core revenues and to lock us out of the new growth in online services."

BARBARA DARROW contributed to this story.