September 12, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Search comes to mobile phones

Mobile phones offer plenty more than just voice these days. They can provide news, video clips, local weather and even restaurant recommendations.

Problem is, many customers can't figure out how to access all that information. That's where companies like Google and Yahoo, along with a slew of start-ups such as InfoSpace, JumpTap and Medio, see a big opportunity. These companies are developing tools that allow users to search for content. And they're starting to test search-based advertising to help generate revenue.

"When there were only 10 ring tones and a handful of other sites on the carrier deck it was simple," said Iain Gillott, an analyst with iGillott Research. "But now there's 10,000 ring tones and it's really hard to find what you want. It's like walking into Wal-Mart with only the aisle numbers to guide you to what you want to buy."

Mobile search and the advertising business models that have been proposed to support the service are sure to be hot topics discussed during the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association's (CTIA) semiannual trade show here in Los Angeles this week. The CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment show begins Tuesday and runs through Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

As revenue from their voice services continues to decline amid pricing pressure, mobile operators are counting on mobile video, music downloads and other data services to make up the revenue difference. But so far, most of the 190 million wireless subscribers in the United States have not downloaded content onto their phones or surfed the mobile Internet looking for content.

Mobile tracking firm M:Metrics said that only about 15 percent of U.S. wireless subscribers, or about 28 million people, downloaded some type of multimedia content during a three-month period that ended in July. And the Yankee Group estimates only 18 percent of wireless users in the U.S. have even tried surfing mobile Internet, with 6 percent saying they consider themselves regular mobile Internet users.

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There are likely many reasons that explain why American wireless subscribers aren't downloading content and surfing the mobile Internet. The services and content may be priced too high. Users may be uncomfortable with the small form factor on the phone. Some experts also believe that people simply cannot find the content they're looking for quickly.

"Surfing the mobile Internet is still hard," said Eric McCabe, vice president of marketing for JumpTap. "The wired Internet didn't really start to explode until search tools like Google made it much easier to find things online."

Experts warn that creating search applications for mobile devices is completely different from creating them for the PC. Smaller screens, rudimentary navigation tools and tiny keypads not optimized for typing all make mobile search very different from its wired equivalent.

Users are also more impatient when they're using their mobile device to access information than when they're sitting in front of a PC. They don't want to wait for screen downloads, and they aren't willing to look through dozens of search results on multiple pages to find what they want.

Controlling the content
But the biggest challenge for mobile search is likely not the technology but figuring out an appropriate business model. In contrast with the wired Web, in the wireless world the operators themselves control what content users can access.

Most mobile operators offer subscribers a menu or "deck" filled with the carriers' own content that has been supplied through deals they have made with news organizations, record labels, TV networks and other content producers. Carriers generate revenue by charging for subscriptions to packages or premium content. They also get a cut of revenue when users download content from their decks.

Some carriers allow subscribers to leave their decks to surf the mobile Internet and purchase content, but they still control access to outside content.

"At the end of the day, the carriers make the business decisions," Gillott said. "Some will continue to be very restrictive and others will be more open to accommodating outside content and outside brands."

CONTINUED: Money in mobile paid search…
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There's still a lot of issues that need to be dealt with.. the mobil arena. As a mobil developer for Tech01 ( I can personally tell you that there are some serious obstacles to over come in the development state that I wouldn't even recommend the notion of going on the mobil web.

That is of course unless you go to ; were trying to change this by offering a Mobil Portal that would allow easier use of the mobil net. Once again, there's development problems due to companies like HipTop and the Danger Network that T-Mobile offers. That's not a True HTML network. Sure, you can read graphic stripped pages, just click on the weather link at You'll see that the Danger Network provided by T-Mobile doesn't actually render real HTML pages. They use a technology that actually strips the HTML to only certain tags that are allowed to be rendered.

How about video, you may be able to offer video cast to people who want to pay for it but what about video through the mobil net? IMPOSSIBLE. Take the Google link at and then look for some video, my SideKick2 will crash like there is no tomorrow.

And then, what about the T-Mobile Danger network stripping Animated Graphics. Why? My NGage QD would render more HTML pages correctly than the SideKick2 all day long. Yet there on the same mobil networks.

This is just the mobil web limitation. There are the limitations of the devices themselves too. I remember when the SideKick was owned by Danger and nobody else new what the hell a SideKick was; yet I new they'd be the **** in due time. Now that I own a SideKick2 I'm so sorely disappointed in the fact that the browser used by it would crash so easily in my development arena.

FYI: I can create audio and video small enough to be useful; yet efficient enough to be streamed across the mobil web. That is of course, if you mobil companies like T-Mobile would be so courteous as to open the networks.

And if you don't think your company is capable of streaming video across the mobil web than you need to fire who ever is telling you that and hire Tech01!

The mobil web is young and can be useful; but it starts with GREEDY mobil companies that would rather try to get the first streaming dollar than open the pipes and let the little guy in, like myself, to get a piece!

Justin Gund
Posted by OneWithTech (196 comments )
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There's always Google
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by atariboy (19 comments )
Link Flag
Search for mobiles is a different animal
Searching for mobile sites is much different than searching on
the desktop. There are some innovative ideas that are starting to
emerge for the mobile space. These ideas and concepts need to
be expanded on and mobile browsing will explode when people
discover how easy it is use to the mobile web.

One such idea comes from an Irish company called Alatto with
their Tribes product. This is the marketing blurb from their site
about what Tribes is: "A key problem is that subscribers find
service discovery and mobile internet browsing far too difficult.
We solve this problem by making service discovery and content
browsing a 'one-click' process. The user doesn't have to enter or
remember URLs or navigate complex portal menus or download
java clients. Now all they need do is one-click browse to find
excellent content."

Try this on your mobile for a totally new mobile web experience.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by ZooVision (44 comments )
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Posted by lucifinil (22 comments )
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Posted by brunachrisa (2 comments )
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Posted by brunachrisa (2 comments )
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