Windows RT Gets a Google Search App

By | Nov 15, 2012

Windows RT users will naturally be able to Bing it, if they want to use Microsoft's own search engine to look for information. But that won't be their only choice. Google has released its own RT search app. Which is good news for prospective users of the tablet-oriented version of Windows 8. And it is even good news for Microsoft.

Google's move also points toward good news for the IT community at midsize firms. The dominant trend in the mobility era has been the effort of big vendors to lock consumers into walled-garden ecosystems. And they have been helped by the technical constraints of mobile devices. The ability to do a search--on Google, Bing, or whichever search engine you choose--is critical to giving mobile users full access to the open Internet.

Opening Up Windows

As Lance Whitney reports at CNET, Google has followed up on its Windows 8 search app. The search giant has now released a search app specifically designed for devices running the tablet-oriented Windows RT.

The features of the new search app are accordingly touch-centric to fit the RT environment. For example, swiping the screen from the left displays recent searches along with a link to your full search history. Like its Windows 8 cousin, Google's RT search app is available in the Windows Store and will provide users with the options to use either Google or Microsoft's own Bing for online search.

Windows Onto the Web

Windows 8 and its RT variant have only just made their debut. Their future in the marketplace--and in IT at midsize firms--thus remains to be seen. But Google's move to provide a search app for Microsoft's latest operating system has a significance that extends beyond devices running Microsoft.

Mobile devices, even tablets, have constraints not shared by PCs. Their screens are smaller than laptop screens, let alone desktop screens. And input is very limited. Even Microsoft Surface's keyboard is no substitute for a "real" keyboard when it comes to complex interactions.

These are inherent constraints of the tablet form factor. But they have lent themselves to vendors' desires to corral consumers into walled-garden ecosystems. Mobility spawned the app environment because ease of use is so important for mobile users that they are willing to sacrifice flexibility. And apps are easily confined in walled gardens.

Search, on the other hand, is the crucial feature of the open Internet. Search brings the ability to break out of a walled garden and go wherever your search results beckon. It will never be as easy on a mobile device as on a PC, again because of form factor constraints. But Google is doing its part (for its own interests, naturally) in making mobile search practical.

And this is good news for the IT community at midsize firms, because it is good news for midsize firms, period. Walled gardens are not friendly to midsize businesses--they must essentially pay a toll to get in. On the open Web they are free to set up shop. Search is their online lifeblood, making Google their effective ally.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.