X1 rises again with Desktop Search 8, Virtual Edition

X1, the innovative desktop search vendor that rose to prominence a decade ago, has reinvented itself once again. With the release this week of X1 Search Client 8, the company has refocused on the enterprise and hopes to cash in by providing an enterprise desktop search alternative that rolls in support for SharePoint files -- and a version that's compatible with virtual desktops.

"In most Citrix environments there's no Windows desktop search and Outlook indexing. It's a best practice," because allowing every desktop to maintain and update its own index and indexing service takes up too many resources, says Mike Devin, Vice President of X1 Desktop. And that's the opportunity that X1 hopes to exploit with X1 Search 8 Virtual Edition.

X1 continues to play on its core strengths: Fast real-time indexing and searching, the ability to narrow down results by applying filters (folder, file name, document type, email subject line, etc.) and a document viewer that supports hundreds of file formats to let you quickly see if you've found the right document."We've never diverged from our core function to build software that helps people find things quickly. Only the data sets and the use cases have changed," he says.

X1 Desktop Search 8

Indeed. Back in 2005, as a reporter with many gigabytes of historical search data arranged in hundreds of hierarchically arranged folders, I lived by X1 Desktop Search -- and I went through an agonizing withdrawal when X1 didn't follow me over to the Mac platform.

X1's bumpy road

X1 was a perfect example of how you can make a great product and people still won't buy it. Consumers didn't way to pay for it -- they wanted it for free -- and IT didn't see the value in buying an additional search tool when Windows came with one. Even when IT did invest in search, the focus was on Google's "index everything" approach, Devin says.

"It was the economics of good enough," he adds, and X1 suffered for it. By 2008 the company was scaling back and looking to reposition itself.

By 2010 X1 had refocused on the consumer once again, adding the ability to index social media streams including those from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. "We would index whomever you were following. We would index the Tweets and the pages those Tweets were linked to. No one else did that at the time," Devin says.

But that still wasn't enough to get a large number of consumers to pony up $49.95.

So X1 refocused yet again, this time on the forensics and legal discovery market. It broke off the social media indexing piece from X1 Desktop Search and retooled it to create X1 Social Discovery, a niche product that Devin says X1 has successfully marketed to law firms, private investigators and law enforcement over the past year. The program might be used, for example, to see if someone filing a Worker's Compensation claim for a bad back is posting Facebook photos that show them riding on horseback.

With it's attention once again squarely focused on the enterprise, X1 had to make some hard decisions about what to include -- and not include -- in its core product. While X1 saw a need to include Outlook, Web mail and SharePoint documents in its search results, the idea of having employees searching through their personal social media streams didn't sit well with business users. So X1 Search 8 has jettisoned that capability. And while it now supports SharePoint, X1 doesn't actually index that content. "We query SharePoint and it returns the results to us," Devin says.

In its Virtual Edition, X1 has separated the user interface, which runs on the virtual desktop, from the indexing engine, which runs on a separate, physical server in the data center. Each virtual desktop running X1 Desktop Search has its own index and instance of the indexing service running on that server.

Devin claims that the lack of a viable desktop search option has lead some organizations to hold off on implementing virtual desktops, and right now X1 sees itself as the only viable alternative. The question is whether enough IT organizations will see the value in X1's approach -- and whether it's a big enough pain point for their users to convince them to  spend scarce IT budget dollars to implement X1 Search 8 Virtual Edition.

As for Desktop Search 8, another game changer looms as enterprises begin the slow migration to the Office 365 cloud. "We do not yet support Office 365," Devin says, "But it's coming soon."

Related Stories: The X1 Saga

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