February 7, 2006 12:58 PM PST

Forget browser wars, prepare for toolbar wars

Fighting for icon space on the desktop is so 2001. The new frontier on a virgin PC is the browser, and Internet companies like Google are jostling for space on the browsers of new PCs.

Dell and Google are evaluating a partnership in which the Google Toolbar, Google Desktop Search and a Google-designed Dell home page are included on new Dell PCs, a Dell representative confirmed.

elsewhere on CNET
Learn about it
Check out CNET's take on Google Toolbar

Learn about it
See a review of Google Desktop 2 at CNET.com

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the companies are mulling a three-year partnership that could bring as much as $1 billion in revenue to the PC maker for letting Google install its software on Dell machines. The Dell representative declined to comment on the future of the relationship between the two companies. A Google representative confirmed the two companies were testing the search giant's products on new Dell PCs, but declined to comment further.

The browser, not the desktop, has become the most sought-after piece of real estate on a new PC, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. Five years ago, PC companies were giddy over the prospect of renting space on their boxes' desktops to the highest bidder, after Microsoft's antitrust settlement with the U.S. Justice Department forced it to open up the Windows desktop to increased competition.

Companies such as America Online and CompuServe rushed to get prominent placement for their dial-up services on new PCs, but the move didn't pay off as they had hoped. PC users simply ignored icons they didn't wish to use, or used cleanup programs to remove all icons from their desktops or start menus, Kay said. However, just about every PC user who's connected to the Internet uses the browser at least once a day, and browser toolbars that contain useful utilities such as Google's search engine will grab a user's attention, he said.

related video
Testing Google's toolbar
CNET News.com reporter Elinor Mills looks at some of the new features in Google Toolbar 4.0.

These preloaded toolbars also give PC companies a way to supplement their revenue without any additional cost, said Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis with NPD Techworld. "Even two bucks is important to them," he said, noting the notoriously low margins of the PC industry.

Google already has partnerships with PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Apple Computer and Toshiba to distribute the Google Toolbar, according to a Google representative quoted by Reuters on Tuesday. Gateway said Tuesday that it's shipping the Google Toolbar with new PCs.

Google rivals such as AOL, Yahoo and MSN are likely perusing similar deals or negotiating for their own unique space on a new PC, the two analysts agreed. AOL recently announced a deal to supply an AOL-branded home page as the default start page on new Sony Vaio PCs.

"Everybody's nervous about Google to begin with. They're like that loaded shotgun that's just lying around--nobody's sure when it's going to go off," Baker said.

As software companies move toward the emerging model of delivering software as a service over the Internet, hooking PC users on one brand or another early on will become extremely important, Kay said. "They know half the people aren't going to switch the defaults" even if they are provided with choices, he said. Google announced the Google Pack, a collection of search and organization software, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, and Dell Chairman Michael Dell expressed interest in possibly including the software on Dell PCs.

But Google might be disappointed with the returns it gets on its investment in browser real estate, Baker said. Google's brand is already so well known that investing a billion dollars in this type of preferred placement might be a very expensive way of marketing to PC customers who already use Google's products, he said.

CNET News.com's Ina Fried and Elinor Mills contributed to this report.

See more CNET content tagged:
Google Toolbar, PC company, Stephen Baker, Dell PC, Google Inc.

11 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Do we need them?
I can't seem to understand why people use browsers with, or decide to install, toolbars. I can't stand them. They take space on your screen. They can take as much as an inch of screen. Why do you want to do that.
I use Firefox and that search window to my right works wonders for me. That's all I need. I have my favorites/or most visited likns with icons on my screen, and whatever else I need I just click on my "Bookmarks" button, and there are the rest.

Why people use these space hoags is beyond me. I guess is the same reason why people are still using AOL. Might as well go back to writing with crayons.
Posted by Dead Soulman (245 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google Toolbar better than Dell MyWay Toolbar
Remember the Dell/MyWay partnership? Dell would install the MyWay toolbar on their PC's Browsers and then have a Dell MyWay portal. Probably the same with Google now, only less troubling for PC users. At least Google isn't evil (yet).
Posted by BMR777 (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google Not Evi Yet???
Are you kidding? Google not evil yet? They're doing the same crap that MS and any other monolopy-like company does. Read the news a bit more and you'd realise what they've been doing for the sake of the mighty green dollar.
Posted by Dead Soulman (245 comments )
Link Flag
What's the point
I really don't get the whole point of what toolbar gets installed into which system by default - it's irrelevant to me since I always do a clean install of a retail version of Windows whenever I get a new system.

I'd rather they give me a clean installation of Windows than to bundle it with all those crap.
(Did I hear someone say Norton AV?)
Posted by klo_2k (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
DELL Preloads SPYWARE for you
I ordered a DELL Precision. I noticed the Google Desktop search and Google Toolbar and Homepage. I thought I had purchased a USED machine. They don't give you a choice when you turn on the machine to refuse the install. My advice to anyone buying a machine, REINSTALL the OS before you use the machine. I had a full 8 GIGS of disk usage before I installed one app. After I reformatted the drive less than a gig was used. Doesn't DELL know that Google spys on it's users? The Desktop search stores all kinds of info on you, beware corporate users!
Posted by SolariPIcasso (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree toolbars are quite useless
Especially if one uses a browser like firefox which has a google search in the top right anyways, whats the point of an extra toolbar taking lots of space and personally making my browser look cluttered for no real purpose
Posted by didntfindaname (10 comments )
Link Flag
Who cares about toolbars!
Honestly, I used the Google toolbar for like a month, took it off as Microsofts popup stopper was all I needed.

Anyways, everytime I get a new computer, I always unload all the crap that is preinstalled.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
illegal MS software user bob bob
you need to buy a new license of windows
Posted by baswwe (299 comments )
Link Flag
This is funny considering.....
....the article I just wrote on www.TechViewsToday.US about
Yahoo's blatant use of known web code to see that I was using a
Safari web browser. Then Yahoo displayed a rather poignant
banner ad asking me to change the default search provider at
top right corner of my Safari Browser.

You see, Google adheres this space by default. Read the whole
story at www.TechViewsToday.US

~Justin
Posted by OneWithTech (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
can we say illegal copies of MS software
illegal usage of ms software = jailtime
Posted by baswwe (299 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.