Mobile search on the rise

Improving the user experience is heard many times from handset vendors and mobile operators alike. While progress have undoubtedly been made, if smartphones are to continue to drive the further uptake of data traffic then extra work is required.

One area for investigation is the development of mobile search using voice commands. According to Strategy Analytics, minimising text input enables users to search for web-based content in a more efficient manner and increases frequency of use. In particular, the analysts found local search, using the Nuance Voice Control application, was very effective with both Google and Yahoo providing useful features such as maps and contact numbers. Local search is put forward as a high growth segment, with the US-based Kelsey Group forecasting a CAGR of 130.5 per cent from 2008 through 2013.

Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, recently made the prediction that mobile search revenues would surpass desktop search within the next several years--not decades, as smartphones improve and become more affordable. One research firm has stated Google's search dominance on smartphones is now even greater than its lead on the desktop and accounted for a staggering 97.5 per cent of global smartphone searches in February 2009. Yahoo followed with just 2.03 per cent, and MSN represented only 0.07 per cent.

But this overwhelming supremacy might be under threat if ongoing negotiations between Yahoo and Vodafone Europe come to fruition. Vodafone‘s deal with Google for mobile search expires this year and this might provide Yahoo with the chance to build on existing agreements it has with the mobile operator. Yahoo already has partnerships in Europe T-Mobile and O2, and claims to be talking to others.

This fight for mobile search dominance is set to increase as smartphones become mid-range and then mass-market devices, and netbooks continue to find greater acceptance. But one firm missing from this debate is Nokia--albeit that it has a very low-profile mobile search application. Given its intent to dominate the smartphone market together with its strategy to enter the mobile services business, its continuing absence is "interesting." -Paul