In recent months, the three search giants have introduced a new breed of search services that emphasize quick answers to urgent questions: Where is the best local pizzeria? What's the fastest way to get to the airport? The services are beginning to carry small ads related to searches, like those that have turned desktop Internet search into a gold mine.
But between the search giants and phone users stand some powerful gatekeepers -- cellphone carriers like Cingular, Sprint and Verizon. On the PC, Web surfers can easily go to the search engine of their choice, but carriers have the ability to dictate which search engine is easy to access and which is not through placement in their phones' menus.