Yahoo Wades Into Hyperactive Mobile Search Space

Consumers — at least those that own either Motorola’snew MotoRazr maxx V6 and MotoRazr V3xx devices — arestarting to downloadYahoo’s beta version of its Go For Mobile 2.0, whichlaunched this week at the International CES (Consumer Electronics Show).

Key among the new features in thisversion is Yahoo’s oneSearch search engine, which is designed to recognize the intent of a searchterm and present relevant content — grouped by subject — on the results page.

Other highlights include local listings, directconnections to news, sports, entertainment, weatherand finance content, photo sharing and better e-mailsynchronization.

International Availability

At some point over the next six months, Yahoo Go 2.0will come pre-loaded on certain Motorola phones. The company also said that consumers will also be able to downloadYahoo Go 2.0 on approximately 70 other mobile devices and beable to use it on most wireless networks.

International carriers such as 3 Group (available in the United Kingdom, Italy, Denmark, Ireland and Sweden), Bharti Airtel, DiGiTelecommunications, Globe Telecom,Hutchison India, Idea Cellular, Rogers Wireless, SmartCommunications and Taiwan Mobile will be included.

“Yahoo intends to be the No. 1 mobile Internetplayer globally,” said Marco Boerries, senior vicepresident of connected life for Yahoo.

Carriers Getting Nervous

With this version, Yahoo is making a serious run forthe mobile search and related content market which,is poised to explode, potentiallyshoving established players — namely the carriers –into the sidelines.

“Mobile phones subscribers are a bigger market thancomputers,” Matt Booth, senior research analyst forthe Kelsey Group, told TechNewsWorld. “Carriers upuntil recently have taken their control of the marketfor granted.”

Over the last six months or so, he said, there have been some emerging competitive threats thatcould bypass carriers grip on this market –a situation that Booth likens to carriers’ failure tocapitalize on the ringtones market several years ago.

One sign Booth points to is the fastdevelopment of free directory services, a high marginbusiness for carriers that typically brings in betweenUS$1 to $3 per call depending on the market, whilecosting 16 cents to deliver.

The business model — which has been attracting agreat deal of attention lately, including from Google,Booth said — is based on audio advertising wrappedaround this free service.

“This is making carriers alittle nervous and pushing the dialog around mobilesearch further ahead,” he said.

Block and Tackle

Indeed, Iain Gillott, founder of iGillottResearch, saidhe is certain some of the carriers will blockYahoo’s and Google’s mobile offerings — something thatis perfectly legal.

“These contracts typically say thecarrier will allow access to content at theirdiscretion and can block content they deem to beinappropriate,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Carriers have an edge in that most consumers — atleast right now — don’t shop for cell phones withmobile search as a big criteria, he added.

That is likely to change, however, as the phones continue tobecome more high-end and more mobile-specific contentis developed independent of the carriers.

There are other challenges as well that need to be metbefore mobile search is able to truly take off,including cheaper and greater availability ofGlobal Positioning System-enabled cellular phones that can easily handleback-end services. Booth estimates the U.S. market isabout two to three years behind Europe in this regard.

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