EBay Desktop application in public beta

Alerts, new bid features make buying easier

EBay Monday is releasing a free desktop application that makes it easier for buyers to keep track of items and submit bids.application, named eBay Desktop, features many types of alerts that take some of the work out of bidding on auction items. Users can receive alerts about new listings of products they are interested in, reminders before specific listings expire, or alerts when they are outbid.

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It’s easy to keep track of because the alerts pop up even when the application is closed, because it remains active in the background, and users can submit new bids without opening the application or a Web browser. Future versions will include alerts for new e-mails from eBay members.

“Users don’t have to proactively go to their browser to find out what’s going on, and they don’t have to rely on e-mail, which as tons of problems to begin with,” says Alan Lewis, the eBay Desktop product manager.

A private beta began in June but the alert functionality was limited. EBay is opening a public beta Monday, and users can download the application for free here.

EBay relied heavily on input from private beta users in building the updated version, Lewis says.

“Users consistently said ‘I want this to be more about me, I want this to be more personalized,’” he says. “We put in a lot more widgets that provide more information about your activity … and what are the top items you’re bidding on.”

Just like RSS feeds provide news updates, eBay Desktop feeds help users keep track of new items and favorite searches. Storing searches and bid histories within the desktop application lets users find listings they’re interested in more easily.

Previously called Project San Dimas, eBay Desktop was built on Adobe AIR and works on Windows XP, Vista and the Mac operating system.

A few thousand users signed up for the private beta. Lewis says he’s not sure how many people will download Desktop now that it’s publicly available, and that he doesn’t know when eBay will release a 1.0 version.

“We want to get users’ feedback so we can get a sense from them in terms of how close to 1.0 are we, what features do we have to have so people can feel like they should use this instead of the Web site,” he says.

EBay Desktop is purely for buyers, but Lewis says he’s considering tools for sellers. “The users have been very vocal that they want those features,” he says.

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