Search War Gearing Up On The Mobile Front
Sprint's new location-based mobile search will use the handset's GPS capabilities to automatically find businesses and listings nearby--eliminating the need to manually enter a ZIP-code or other info with a query.
Microsoft's Live has been the search engine behind the entire suite of Sprint's mobile search offerings since last November, including local search, content search (for downloads like ringtones and games) as well as mobile Web search overall. Banner ads come from Microsoft's stable of AdCenter advertisers, but local and geotargeted advertisers will be integrated in the future.
The GPS capabilities also extend to the new voice-powered application--with a rich, graphical interface designed by Microsoft's recent acquisition Tellme--that lets users speak their search requests into the handset and get results onscreen. Sprint customers need to download the free, Java-based application and standard data charges apply for use of both services.
Analysts say that search is shaping up to be a key source of mobile advertising revenue, and for carriers to get a piece of the pie, they need to partner with branded, third-party developers like Microsoft.
"Carriers are soon arriving at the point that they have to pick partners," said Matt Booth, senior vice president and local program director, interactive media for The Kelsey Group. "By bundling products like AdCenter, Live Search and Tellme, Microsoft can offer them very sweet deals to use their solutions."
According to Booth, whose firm pegged U.S. mobile search advertising revenues to top $100 million next year, "Many [carriers] view Microsoft as less threatening than Google, so we're seeing the next phase of the search war between Microsoft and Google starting to take place."