Mobile Search: Much Ado About Nothing?

by Tom Tsinas October 29th, 2007 

Google and Yahoo didn't have much of a presence at the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference in San Francisco last week, but their startup competitors and much smaller rival AOL all did.

While Google and Yahoo have been pursuing mobile search and advertising, they've met resistance from mobile operators in the U.S. "Some are concerned about Google and Yahoo being stronger competitors, that they will become in effect the dumb pipe that the ISPs became," said Greg Sterling, an analyst at Sterling Market Research and Opus Research. "I think that's a valid fear. On a personal note, I just love that quote!

According to IDG news report (unfortunately, I wasn't in San Fransisco), Microsoft is pursuing a foothold in mobile search and has an advantage through its Windows Mobile operating system. Phones running the OS feature a link to Microsoft's Live Search on the start page.

In addition, IDG went on to say that AOL made several announcements at the show pertaining to new mobile services. It even had a booth, which included a small poster for JumpTap in the area of the stand promoting a new AOL mobile search offering.

This past summer the Wall Street Journal reported that Google is developing a new search service for cellphones that will focus on mobile specific content such as ring tones and games. MSNBC reported today that an announcement is "expected within weeks" however we've heard little since July.

Many industry pundits believe all of this creates an opportunity for companies such as JumpTap and Medio, which offer technologies to operators to present self-branded search tools for their mobile users.

Operators tell JumpTap that they "don't want Google and other online search brands to siphon away search traffic, and with it, the opportunity to earn revenue from advertising" said Adam Soroca, vice president of search services for JumpTap. Nobody seems to want to work with Google unless they absolutely have to.

All this is fine except for the fact that a nearly two-thirds of respondents to a Maritz Research survey of Gen Y consumers said they were "unlikely" or "definitely unlikely" to subscribe to text retail offers sent to their handsets.

Mobile Marketing

If you recall, the WebVisible-Nielsen survey I blogged about two weeks ago was more woeful, with 92% of respondents saying that local business ads sent to their mobile phones would irritate them.

And, if that's not enough, I just found this Ingenio-sponsored survey conducted by Harris Interactive that had four-fifths of mobile users say that text messages sent by companies would be totally unacceptable.

Mobile Marketing Survey results

Is all this fuss much ado about nothing or are the questions taken out of context? After all, like eMarketer asked "It's one thing to ask if someone wants ads sent to their phone and another to ask if they would like free music in exchange for viewing a mobile ad."

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