July 6, 2005 9:00 PM PDT

Yahoo expands its mobile search functions

Yahoo has launched a new mobile search feature designed to let people send short text message queries and receive results via their mobile phones.

The new feature, called SMS Search, is designed to let people get specific information, such as weather, stock quotes and business addresses, and use shortcuts on the keypad to make it faster. For example, typing in "w" and the ZIP code will retrieve a short weather forecast, Yahoo said. The tool was announced Thursday.

If the information sought is not included in the first set of results, users can request and receive additional input. People also can save the responses and reply to them repeatedly over time to get updates of the same information, such as stock quotes for a particular company.

In addition, Yahoo is set to extend its browser-based mobile search function to a broader set of devices. Previously, only PDAs with bigger screens and full Web search capability, such as the Treo and the BlackBerry, could do browser-based searching.

Now any Wireless Application Protocol-enabled phone, which includes most mobile phones with a color screen, can do Web searches. Yahoo is using transcoding to translate Web pages into a format that a small-screen device can display, Yahoo said.

Yahoo has partnerships with Cingular Wireless, Sprint and Verizon for SMS-based search services and with Cingular, Sprint and T-Mobile for browser-based Web search services.

Yahoo also has expanded the type of data that people can send from a computer-based Web search to a phone. The list now includes products, prices and other shopping-related results. Yahoo previously allowed people to send localized information on gas stations and stores, as well as driving directions from Web maps, as text messages to phones. Yahoo added the shopping results function last week.

The company is not charging consumers for the services but said there may be charges depending on the carrier fees.

Yahoo has a deal with Sprint to allow PCS Vision customers to send and receive e-mails, files and photos from their mobile phones.

Yahoo and Google are in a heated battle to be the first place people go to for information on the Internet. They have turned their attention to cell phones and other non-PC devices and are racing to offer localized content and search to make getting Web-based information as easy on handheld devices as it is on a laptop or PC.

Google SMS also offers text-only message results for mobile phones.

 

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