BARCELONA, Spain--Mobile application discovery service Quixey (a 2013 Fierce 15 award winner) is making a dramatic update to its "Functional Search" service, with the intention of redefining mobile search.
The company is launching what it calls "search as a platform," which will let users search for information through their apps, and allows developers to present information about their apps however they want. The goal is to change searching for apps from a process that gets users to the "front door" of an app and instead inside the app itself.
In a recent interview with FierceWireless, Quixey CEO Tomer Kagan said there is no way for a search engine to truly crawl apps the way Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) crawls the Web.
Kagan said that when a user makes a mobile search for "Thai restaurants," for example, especially on Google, it will return curated Google search results with Google Maps locations that Google sells advertising against. One result might be from Open Table, but Open Table cannot let a user know in that search result that there are tables available at particular restaurants within the next few hours. Moreover, he said, the search result won't display whether there is a Groupon offer for a particular Thai restaurant.
Quixey is going change that with Functional Search, Kagan said. The tool will use apps regardless of whether they are on a user's phone but will prioritize apps on the user's device. "Apps are the world's largest distributed operating system," Kagan said.
The new search feature will, for example, let taxi apps show as much information as they want, including if a taxi can be picked up within a few minutes nearby. In effect, Kagan said the tool will let developers make the best argument. The more information they offer via the search, the more engaging they are likely to be and the more they are likely to be used, he said.
"The only way we think the world is going to bring down those walled gardens is if they can share that data, and if they feel comfortable sharing the data to attract a user's engagement," Kagan said.
There will be certain boundaries for how much info apps can show in Functional Search, but it is up to developers to decide which format to display information about their apps. "Those that are willing to go on a limb and show more of their data and expose themselves will probably win over the hearts and minds," Kagan added.
Quixey currently processes 100 million queries a month and has its own direct-to- consumer product. The company has spent the past several years developing relationships with wireless players.
Quixey originally launched on Android, but last year it teamed with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) to create the Switch to Windows Phone app that helps Android users more seamlessly migrate to Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 platform by recommending equivalent WP8 versions of their favorite Android apps. Quixey's Functional Search discovery technology also is integrated into Sprint's (NYSE:S) Zone and Digital Lounge content hubs.
The new Functional Search will be available first on Android and the first "vertical" market will be restaurants. Kagan said Quixey wants to test the technology and not overload its system so it is starting out slowly. "We're doing it one step at a time and that's going to speed up," he said.
Other verticals the new Functional Search will target include games, transportation, commerce and media (say a user wanted to watch a movie and wanted to see if it was streaming on Hulu, Netflix or HBO Go).
Kagan said he hopes to expand the new search beyond Android this year. "We're going to see how the first results come in, how it's playing out," he said.
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