Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top Contenders in the Race for Mobile Search

USA Today had an interesting article yesterday. Titled "Are Google, Yahoo the Next Dinosaurs?" it took a closer look at the race for the prize in the mobile search arena:
Today, about 1 billion people have PCs, about 3 billion have mobile phones, growing to 4 billion by 2010. A major driver is the growing popularity of Web-enabled devices such as the Apple iPhone.

One of the biggest challenges: dealing with the matchbox-size screens of cellphones and the other devices, which aren't hospitable to the ads that are the lifeblood of traditional search engines. Billions in potential ad revenue are at stake as social networks, location-based services and wireless search deliver instant answers to wireless users on the go . . .

The fledgling mobile search industry generated about $700 million in ad revenue in 2007, JupiterResearch estimates. By 2012, revenue is expected to hit $2.2 billion and keep rising. Jupiter analyst Julie Ask says mobile search could eventually eclipse the traditional Web, which currently generates about $20 billion in ad revenue.

The problem with mobile search is that search engines rely on ads to generate their revenue. Consumers are accustomed to Google's PC screen with search results plus ads at the top and to the right of the screen.

The tiny screens on mobile devices can't support both search results and paid ads. A new model will need to be developed for mobile search.

Additionally mobile search customers aren't sitting at home in front of a computer screen. They're in cars and on sidewalks, looking for restaurants, bookstores and theaters. They don't have the patience to keep refining their search string or to sort through pages of results.
Search engines, angling to win over mobile customers early, are racing to solve these problems. Their solutions, in some cases, are wildly different.

Google doesn't plan to change its current model for service beyond offering snippets of search results instead of pages and pages of information. The Internet giant is developing an "open wireless operating system--dubbed Android--that would make it easier for consumers to use Google's mobile services. Android-loaded devices are expected to hit the market later this year."

Yahoo's OneConnect service relies on a social networking model and voice-recognition technology.

The article finishes by introducing a start-up mobile search company called Medio, based in Seattle. Medio plans to allow the big mobile carriers to use its service under their own names rather than using Medio's name.

Medio doesn't plan to search the whole Internet for search responses. They are narrowing and targeting their results.

Will Google and Yahoo retain their hegemony of search when consumers switch to mobile devices for their queries? Only time will tell.

Read the whole article here.


nancorbett said...

Mobile has possibilities that are going to be realized pretty soon. Imagine you're walking down the street and your phone jingles that familiar sound. You have a text message! The message reads, "Our special today is the iced hazelnut latte. Step on in and try one." You look up from your phone screen and see that a Starbucks is just ahead on the corner.

Yikes! Try THAT with a PC.

When the FCC mandated that all wireless phones have location check for the E911 services, they all promised this wouldn't happen. But it will. The marketing possibilities for wireless are unfathomable. There's a tremendous amount of excitement about it, and the wireless carriers are all scrambling to accommodate it. The infrastructure is already in place because of E911.

mobilist said...

Search on mobile will be very different from search on PC. People searching from their mobiles will usually be doing so on the go and hence would mostly be focusing on local content.

I've covered this in detail on my blog