Is Search the Future of Desktop Computing?

Interesting post on Microsoft Monitor about the future of Windows: 

What Microsoft really needs to do is transcend the traditional user interface and fundamentally transform how people interact with the operating system. But not in some newfangled way that would require effort akin to learning a new foreign language. Apple is off to a good start, assuming the company really understands what it’s got.

I’m talking search as the user interface. Back in February I suggested that maybe the best future of operating system interfaces is a step back to the command line. Search as the user interface makes lots of sense, and it is familiar because of how people use the Web.

Over the weekend, I stopped into an Apple Store to ask questions about QuickTime 7 High-Definition support. An Apple employee said that he had a 1080i short of BBC clips on one of the Macs. Rather than go to the file folder where the clip was stored, he clicked on the Spotlight search icon in the upper right-hand corner, typed BBC, found the file in about one second and started playback in HD. I’ve spoken to a few Mac users that are going through a kind of transforming behavior, where Spotlight quickly is becoming the main way through which they interact with the operating system.

Right now, Windows is stuck in the past.

I see desktop applications like desktop publishing and spreadsheets as driving the first wave of PC purchases. The Internet spurred the second wave of sales. Digital content could drive a third wave of sales, if vendor focus shifted from processing power and other tired feature and performance metrics to real user benefits. Search is a potentially strong user benefit, because it can remove an obstacle–the tired file folder structure–to making more out of digital content. I wonder in a teacher’s survey of a third-grade classroom how many kids aspire to be a file clerk when they grow up? Probably none. So how many people really aspire to filing stuff on their computers and then actually trudging through the file folders looking for it?

Since installing Google Desktop Search and Picasa I now never use the traditional My Documents file browsing. I just bung in what I am after into Desktop Search and move from there. Likewise on the web, with Google as my homepage I simply don’t bother with bookmarks any more – does anyone? It’s far easier to just type what you want into the search engine.