MSN held a massive telephone news conference earlier this week to announce its version of a desktop search application. Like Google desktop, MSN’s offering spiders and indexes various files found on your computer’s hard-drive such as Word documents, Acrobat files, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets. Unlike Google Desktop, this program catalogs a wider variety of files such as Email attachments, photos, music, and even software packages. It also displays results differently, using a pop-up window that changes as you type, gradually reducing the number of references as the topic of your search is typed into the search-box window. MSN desktop also comes with it’s own handy toolbar, a means of merging two appliances into one package. The biggest drawbacks I have found thus far is that it only accesses Email from MS Outlook and does not store records of websites previously visited like Google’s desktop feature does. It also requires the installation and use of the MSN toolbar which can not be used in conjunction with other toolbars.

MSN’s offering places it in the middle of several other desktop appliances released such as Google, Lycos, and Copernic. Both Yahoo and Ask Jeeves are expected to release desktop applications early in the new year.