Mobile Search Is More Than Your Local Green Grocer

Mobile search has always meant more to me than just another hyped application. Still, while I knew it as another opportunity for brands to connect with consumers, I never fully understood the consumer perspective until recently. Being somewhat of a technology Luddite, I waited a while before adding a Treo and an iPod to my gadget arsenal--only about two weeks ago, actually.

Needless to say, there's been a lot to get used to. iPod aside (which my husband tells me I am using like a "Walkman" since I have only uploaded 300 songs, and it has capacity for 7,500), the Treo has definitely changed my routine, specifically, my downtime.

The other night, I walked over to Whole Foods after work to pick up dinner. Apparently I showed up at one of the peak times, when the checkout line wound through the salad bar area and into desserts. Enter mobile search! I figured, "Why not look for another organic food store in the area?"

I pulled up Google, which knew that I was using a mobile device to connect and sent me straight to I typed in "organic food nyc" and chose the "Web" search option. Google pulled up three local listings followed by 10 natural results. The three stores in the area were listed clearly, with options to click on the telephone numbers and use my Treo to call the locations directly. The natural listings were geared more towards how to buy organic food or join organic food co-ops online.



Using a mobile device as a means to find stores, theaters and other resources in your area (i.e., local search) is certainly one aspect of mobile search, but not the only one. Once I realized the other organic food stores were too far away, I decided to commit myself to waiting in line. I had the perfect recipe for the success of mobile search--downtime and the Internet in the palm of my hand. I delved further into some of the natural listings and read up on buying organic food online.

Google's Web Search option for PDAs transcodes Web sites built for desktop viewing to Web sites that are easy to view on mobile devices. Its "Mobile Web" search option, currently in beta, pulls only those sites that have been optimized for the mobile search experience. Why should you care about these efforts? Well, consider them in conjunction with the following strides being made in the mobile arena.

ESPN is becoming a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which means it is branding its service through a major carrier's network, and in November 2005 launched a cell phone that gives users one-click access to personalized sports content. Disney, its parent company, has plans to do the same with a focus on family. Another MVNO, Amp'd Mobile, which launched at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is targeting the 18- to 25-year-old male audience with custom content. MTV was so jazzed about the venture it announced a $50 million investment in Amp'd.

Combine this news with the following data: Gartner Dataquest estimates that worldwide handset shipments grew by nearly 21 percent between Q3 2004 and Q3 2005. Is it safe to say 2006 is not the year for mobile search? Not necessarily. With the recent developments in the mobile market, search can only follow suit. In the meantime, my next mission is to figure out how to get part three of a program I've been watching on PBS onto my iPod.

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