Copernic Debuts Desktop Search

Copernic Technologies has stepped into the crowded and competitive arena of desktop search with the launch of its Copernic Desktop Search (CDS). The move pits Copernic, which has offered its Copernic Agent desktop Web meta-search application for the past eight years, against search giant Google, application powerhouse Microsoft, and a number of smaller players.

“We’re not afraid of them. We’re aware of them, but not afraid,” said Copernic CEO David Burns. “Google understands search. Microsoft understands software. Copernic understands search software.”

Desktop search — and especially desktop search that integrates Web search — has become a hot space in recent months. Google is said to be working on a tool, and Microsoft recently showed off its efforts at an analyst’s day at its headquarters. Smaller players like Blinkx are also working to make a mark before the big boys release their products.

As for Copernic, more than 30 million users have downloaded the company’s flagship Copernic Agent, meta-search software that returns multiple search engine results to the user’s desktop. The new desktop search product, CDS, allows users to search their PCs for files, emails and email attachments using a streamlined user interface. A pre-viewer provides a view of the file or email with the search terms highlighted.

The product also has a Web search component, which currently gets results from Yahoo Burns has ties to Yahoo in that he was a senior executive at FAST Search & Transfer, a company whose Web search division was later acquired by Yahoo’s Overture unit. “We didn’t want to intimidate users by taking them to a site with 50 links on it. We wanted something that was very clean, and we wanted something that we were a little bit familiar with,” he said.

“If you look at where we’re going to choose to innovate as a company, we are really focused on the search core — the key pieces of functionality, not the bells and whistles, and really not even the advertising model,” he said. “The most important thing for our strategy is to put in place multiple low-cost/no-cost distribution channels.”

Those distribution channels may include portals, e-commerce and consumer brand sites, or the corporate market, Burns said. While future advertising possibilities are open, Copernic has identified some avenues that will remain closed.

“I can tell you what we won’t do. We won’t do pop-ups, pop-overs, pop-unders, pop-anythings. We’re not going to do anything that you wouldn’t want to put on your PC, because there already enough sources of spyware,” he said. “We don’t want to take the risk that by coming up with some crazy monetization scheme we upset or isolate users. That’s why the product only has time-proven, industry-accepted paid links for Web search.”

Monetization schemes it will consider include advertising surrounding the more vertical categories of file types, such as pictures and video.

“I can imagine that clever people might look at some of these categories and see an opportunity for advertising that relates to the topics. The question is what kind of advertising,” he said. “If we do any kind of advertising, I think we’ll stick with traditional, paid text links, pay for placement advertising. Whether it’s keyword-based or based on vertical content is another story.”

While the company is certainly looking to advertising opportunities in the future, Burns made it clear that the current focus is on the core search technology.

“If we don’t have the absolute best desktop search on the market, then we’re not going to have the users, and we’re not going to have the eyeballs. If we do something good for the user and provide them really good value, and they like the product and there’s a buzz, maybe then we can go back to them in a nice way and introduce some kind of advertising.”

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