Yahoo Ups the Ante in Mobile Web War

Rumors may abound about a tantalizing Google phone in the works, but Yahoo Tuesday made its own, definitive bid for the hearts of mobile Web users by bringing the oneSearch service to mobile phone users.

Yahoo oneSearch, which was first launched on Yahoo Go for Mobile 2.0, now delivers locally relevant answers to cell phone users’ search questions, company officials said. It is accessible through more than 85 percent of mobile phones, according to data from market researcher M:Metrics.

“Yahoo oneSearch has already started to change the mobile search game by fundamentally improving the way consumers’ access and use the Internet on their mobile phones,” said Marco Boerries, senior vice president of connected life at Yahoo. “We are delivering the results consumers want with just one search, not a list of Web links.”

First the ZIP Code

Mobile phone users who search using oneSearch get news headlines, images, business listings and more, all on a single page, officials said. For results to be localized, they need only enter a ZIP code or city name.

For example, if a consumer wants to see a movie on the weekend, they simply type the name of the movie; search results would then include user ratings, a list of local theaters it’s playing at, news headlines related to the movie and more.

Sponsored search results and display advertisements are also built into oneSearch, “further extending the reach of Yahoo’s advertising services to the mobile environment and enabling advertisers to reach consumers on their mobile devices across major mobile operators,” Yahoo officials said. Users then have the option of clicking on an ad to go to the advertisers’ mobile Web site for more information.

Yahoo will release versions of oneSearch targeted at additional countries and languages over the coming months, officials added.

A Competitive Landscape

“This is a very hot space right now, and Yahoo is clearly trying to set itself out as one of the leaders,” Neil Strother, wireless analyst for JupiterResearch, told TechNewsWorld. “When you’re mobile, search results need to be more of an answer than a bunch of links. There’s an urgency to it — it’s much more immediate.”

A number of companies besides Yahoo and Google are taking on the mobile Web market, Strother added, and which one wins will depend on who can monetize the service best.

Ultimately, at least part of that success may depend on the inclusion of global positioning capabilities to replace the need to enter location information.

Where’s the GPS?

“This is a good increase in functionality, but there isn’t going to be any really great leap in search until that application is tied to a GPS antenna within the device,” Chris Hazelton, senior analyst at IDC for mobile device technology and trends, told TechNewsWorld.

Without a GPS, mobile users who are traveling, for example, still have to figure out where they are in order to tell the search service, he said — something that’s not always easy when you’re on the road.

“Yahoo and Google may have problems getting to that antenna,” Hazelton added, “but the next ‘great thing’ won’t happen until they have it.”

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