A great deal of information is leaking out of Redmond Washington this week as Microsoft’s spin-masters start the process of promoting the new search tool that will be incorporated in the new version of the Windows operating system currently code named, “Longhorn”. The new OS will blur the division between a computer’s hard-drive and the general Internet. The goal is to create the ultimate search tool, though with the number of features and tools being spoken of this week, it looks much like a Swiss-Army knife compared to the butter knife MSN currently provides.

Here is a couple of features announced this week:

When a user is looking for information on a specific subject, Longhorn will be able to search their drive, email files, digital images and other personal information as well as searching the general Internet for topic matches. In a bid to build a digital backup of a person’s memories, MSN’s new search tool will convert personal items such as bills, photos, music and documents into digital, searchable files. If you’ve seen it on your computer, it is basically up for grabs for the Longhorn version of MSN search. How this applies to documents stored on another computer remains to be seen but Microsoft will likely code in an opt-out feature allowing users to lock-down sections of their hard-drive from the search tool’s spiders. According to MSN researcher Susan Dumais, the new search-function will help find material that users have seen at one time or another, regardless of whether it was an E-mail, an Office document or a web-site.

Geotargeting is another feature being rolled out with Longhorn and is also being tested by rivals Google and Yahoo. Geotargeting refers to the process of providing local listings for searches. If MSN, Google or Yahoo knows the searcher lives in a certain area (currently defined by US Zip-codes), it will return listings from businesses in that zip code that match the keyword phrases entered by the user. The easiest example is the local pizza company. When I want pizza, I want it now so a listing for a pizza parlor in Seattle, (no matter how yummy the pizza), is rather useless to me in Victoria. But if my search-query results in getting local pizza menus and phone numbers faster than a trip through the Yellow Pages, chances are I’m going to use this feature often. The same can be said for dentists, building contractors, veterinarians, horticulturists, bike shops, and most other service-based businesses. Chances are, these businesses will also be willing to spend at least as much as they spend on their annual Yellow Pages listings, (and as those of us running businesses know, that’s a lot of pizza).

That Microsoft is making announcements and granting interviews about their new product tells us that the marketing hype is just beginning. Remember the roll-out marketing effort for the MSN7 that had a dude in a butterfly outfit placing butterfly stickers all over Manhattan last year? Don’t worry if you fail to remember that campaign, if any trace of it is to be found on your computer, Longhorn will remember it for you.