Voice-Based Mobile Search and Google

Two articles in the WSJ (sub req’d) prompted a number of thoughts and warrant longer treatment than I have time for now. But here’s a quick overview:

Mobile Search Is Dialing Up Voice Recognition

This story is a broad overview of voice-based mobile search and, in particular, profiles and discusses the competition among Jingle Networks (1-800-Free411), Google (GOOG411) and Tellme (now part of Microsoft). Free, ad-supported directory assistance is “local mobile search for the rest of us.” It’s device agnostic and based on existing user behavior (mobile directory assistance) and can reach everyone with a mobile device today. While text/SMS has significant penetration, WAP browsing and application downloads represent a much smaller segment of the market.

The article cites Opus Research forecast numbers

Free mobile search, however, is more bad news for the paid directory-service business. Opus Research predicts this business will drop from $3.5 billion in annual revenue in 2006 to $1.8 billion by 2010, mostly because searching for most phone numbers is free on the Internet. People also will likely begin calling free directory services from their landline as well as their cellphones. The advertiser-supported free model is expected to increase to a $3 billion business in 2010 from $203 million in 2006, according to Opus.

More interesting and useful than pure voice in/voice out (the DA model) is “multi-modal” delivery of mobile information: voice in/text/Wap out.

Google Offers New Details On Its Cellphone Strategy

Two people familiar with Google’s plans said the company is essentially building its own operating system to run a suite of mobile-phone services. Google has already offered some mobile applications on a stand-alone basis, such as the Gmail email service and Google Maps. But they aren’t available on all phones and carriers and aren’t integrated into a single Google suite of services. Another person briefed on Google’s plans said the company has talked with handset manufacturers in Asia

about putting all its applications into a line of new devices.

This is Google, essentially, as MVNO or as development platform (a la Gears) for third parties to build on. But availability and distribution will be key to the success of any such strategy on mobile devices:

Google has discussed bringing such enhanced applications and services to market with at least two of the three major U.S. mobile carriers, AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp., and several operators in Europe, say people familiar with the matter. Representatives for AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless — the top U.S. operators — declined to comment. Verizon Wireless is jointly owned by Vodafone Group PLC and Verizon Communications, Inc.

Here’s a related overview of iCrossing’s mobile user study that show Google already with a lead in mobile “search.”

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