If it was from any other company it wouldn’t really matter, but Google’s Desktop Sidebar is important, not because it’s particularly new, but because it undermines the primacy of the browser.
Loose Wire ‘s WSJ.com column in June looked at desktop widgets like Konfabulator and Klips before, as well as existing sidebars like the Desktop Sidebar, put together in his spare time by software engineer Damian Kedzierski, 34, who lives in Katowice in southern Poland. Or the SpyderBar from New Orleans-based TGT Soft. In the longer term, Microsoft has indicated that it plans to incorporate a very similar approach in its next version of Windows. Yahoo!, of course, have already bought Konfabulator and I would be very surprised if someone doesn’t snap up Serence, the folk behind Klips, pretty soon.
That’s probably where the battle is going to be: the space on top of the browser. Google can find a way past Microsoft only if it’s able to supplant, or bypass, the browser as the main tool for not merely looking for information (like the search toolbar) but also how the information is displayed once it’s retrieved. That’s where the Sidebar comes in.
While I don’t think Google have done a particularly good job with the Sidebar. The weather widget, for example, only shows U.S. cities. There’s nothing new in there to surprise anyone who has used Damian’s Desktop Sidebar. But the power is not there, it’s in the fact that it channels all existing Google products — search, Gmail, presumably Google Earth etc later — straight to your desktop without going anywhere else first. The heat, finally, is on.