Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 13:06 UK

Push for 'instant-on' web search

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Splashtop logo
The software claims to have users searching in seconds

A company that provides "instant-on" computing will bring "instant search" to the PC for the first time.

Splashtop, made by DeviceVM, already lets consumers access email, chat with friends, share photos or surf the web seconds after turning on their PC.

The deal involves three search leaders including Yahoo in the US and Japan, Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia.

DeviceVM's Dave Bottoms said the deals make sense because web searching is fundamental to computer users.

"Search is the tip of the iceberg in being able to offer a lot of different web services, but when you think about where people spend their time online, it's in search," Mr Bottoms, senior director of product management, told BBC News.

"I think this is the next new start experience frontier we are witnessing at the device level."

A web analytics firm, Comscore, found that in June alone Americans conducted more than 14 billion core searches, up from 10.8 billion in 2008.

"A lot of people use search as a basic navigation tool," said DeviceVM's marketing director Sergey Krupenin.

"Instead of typing in in the address bar, users are typing it into the search box."


Depending on what part of the world users are in, as soon as they switch on their computer, they will be greeted by a front page that offers a free Yahoo branded search box or one that says Yandex or Baidu.

Yahoo front page
Earlier this week Yahoo rolled out a new front page make-over

"Web search has emerged as the dominant and universal navigation tool...and providing instant search will further expand our search leadership in China, the largest and fastest growing internet search market in the world," said Haoyu Shen, vice president of operations for Baidu.

"The search distribution landscape is changing, and instant search is one of the ways Yahoo provides our users with a convenient and highly accessible Yahoo search experience," said Tim Mayer, vice president of North America search and social experiences for Yahoo.

In America analysts are not so sure this "instant-search" feature will make a big difference in driving more users to Yahoo, which has 20% of the US market versus Google's 65% share.

"I don't think these deals have a dramatic impact on market share," said Greg Sterling of search news site SearchEngineLand.

"People's habits are fairly well established now when they go online. However some people will undoubtedly use Yahoo for their search because they are lazy and it's right in front of them," said Mr Sterling.

"That might mean Yahoo will get an incremental bump, but it won't be significant."

'Instant internet revolution'

Splashtop comes pre-installed on computers. At the moment it is on over 10 million PCs across 200 models made by Asus, HP, Lenovo, Sony, Acer and LG.

Mr Bottoms said the company estimated that by the end of this year, Splashtop -and the "instant internet revolution" that it heralds - will be on 40 million devices.

By the end of 2010, he believes, that number will be up to 100 million computers.

Asus netbooks
The new search feature will be on devices from September onwards

DeviceVM said the growing popularity of netbooks is key to this success and that this new instant search feature plays nicely into how people use these low-cost mini laptops.

"Users generally use netbooks on the go for chunks of a half an hour or so compared to notebooks or laptops where they will spend around three hours at home or in an office.

"With the emergence of netbooks, we are definitely seeing a lot of consumer demand for always being connected, always on and being able, at the press of a button, to get searching on the web quickly," explained Mr Bottoms.

A report by DisplaySearch said that demand for netbooks has been hot and looks to get hotter.

They are projected to grab a 20% share of the worldwide market for this year with consumers expected to buy almost 33 million netbooks - a doubling of last year's 16 million.

"The culture of 'on-the-go' means that speed is important to these users," said SearchEngineLand's Mr Sterling.

"I think that will be a benefit to the netbook experience and this is where that quick search box will have its appeal."

Windows 7

Splashtop and other "instant-on" offerings from other companies bypasses Microsoft Windows, the dominant operating system on PCs.

But software giant Microsoft has said Windows 7 promises to be a leaner, lighter propositsion that can compete in this space.

Windows 7 at Computex, AFP
Windows 7 is Microsoft's replacement for the much reviled Windows Vista

The company has just released Windows 7 into the hands of computer makers in a process known as "release to manufacturers". This is the last big step before the product reaches users in late October.

Microsoft claims that Windows 7 test results showed PCs have gone from a "cold boot" - from switched completely off - to a ready desktop at speeds comparable to the instant-on environments.

But DeviceVM's Mr Krupenin said that still does not solve the basic problem of speed.

"It is not about how fast an operating system is but how much is loaded onto it. Six months after people have bought their computer, it works at least two times slower because of all the applications that have been added on.

"Splashtop is an optimised environment around the browser and you are not installing anything there," he explained.

The company said it expects to see their 'instant-search' page on devices from September onwards.

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