Google has launched Google Voice Local Search, an experimental directory assistance service using speech recognition over telephones that allows people to search for local businesses.
Callers can dial in from any phone to use the free voice-activated service, which is available on an experimental Google Labs Web site.
The number to dial is 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411).
No Computer Necessary
The search giant released the product last week without much fanfare.
A note posted on the Google Labs site stated, “Using this service, you get fast access to the same local information you’d find on Google Maps. You don’t need a computer, you don’t need an Internet connection and you don’t even need to use your cell phone keypad,” the company stated.
The fully automated service connects callers directly to the requested number free of charge.
For now, there are no ads on the service, which is currently available only in the U.S., the company said, adding that mobile users can receive the search results and additional details via SMS (Short Message Service).
Google’s experimental entry into voice-based mobile search establishes a clear competitive landscape, which will likely mean a further decline in call volumes and revenues for traditional mobile directory assistance, Greg Sterling, a principal analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence, told TechNewsWorld.
“This would allow Google to put its Internet ad business onto mobile phones,” said Sterling. “It also signifies they want to have a viable voice in this space, which is going to be popular area in the future.”
Because Google handles billions of queries already, the move into the directory assistance space is a natural progression. However, it has to make up some distance in this field, Sterling warned.
In addition to traditional directory-assistance providers, Google will eventually have to face off against chief rival Microsoft, which recently agreed to acquire voice search firm Tellme Networks for US$800 million. Internet outfit Jingle is already a big player in the space, as well.
“Clearly there is an opportunity here,” Sterling said. However, directory-assistance providers recognize the service is a cash cow and “they are going to milk it for all it’s worth. They have already started raising prices,” he added.
It seems odd to me that there’s so little comparison to the first free 411 service, 1-800-Free411 (aka, Jingle). While Goog-411 has business information, 1-800-Free411 has business, government, and residential information. This alone indicates which is the better option, but then there’s also the fact that 1-800-Free411 has live operator assistance in case something you’re searching for something that’s hard to pronounce. And since 1-800-Free411 has rolled out with category search, there’s really no question about which is better. While Google may have set this up in competition with Microsoft’s TellMe purchase, they’ve totally failed to notice that their service doesn’t compare well with 1-800-Free411.