Yahoo Inc. said on Thursday it will begin testing a free desktop search service in early January, following rivals hoping to extend the reach of wildly profitable search-related advertising.
Desktop search, which helps excavate information buried on computer hard drives, is seen as the next frontier in the booming search sector that has generated billions in revenues from ads generated by Web search queries.
Yahoo’s product will use licensed technology from Pasadena, California-based X1 Technologies Inc. to help users search e-mail and a variety of files — from photos and music to PDF-format documents — on their hard drives.
Those search capabilities also will be integrated with Yahoo’s own Web search technology, said Jeff Weiner, senior vice president of Yahoo’s search and marketplace business.
Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo expects to roll out rapid updates to its desktop service, which will eventually allow users to search even more of the Web — including content from Yahoo chat groups, address book and instant messaging archives.
Web search leader Google Inc., Yahoo’s biggest rival, launched its test desktop search service in October.
Software giant Microsoft Corp., whose Windows operating system runs on more than 90 percent of the world’s personal computers, bought a desktop search business in July and has said it will launch its own desktop search engine by year-end.
Ask Jeeves Inc. bought desktop search company Tukaroo Inc. in June and also has said it will launch sometime this month.
Desktop search products are expected from AOL and Apple Computer Inc., too.
Yahoo, Google, Ask Jeeves and Microsoft’s MSN Internet division each rely on Web-search advertising to drive profits