The Distance Left to Travel in Mobile Local Search II

At the 3GSM Conference this week, Motorola and Nokia fired significant shots at wireless carriers by launching new hardware and navigation systems that they will sell directly to consumers.

They will offer GPS-based navigation systems with local search, mapping and directions, which will be free after the initial device purchase and allow for paid upgrades such as voice directions or live traffic updates. Most important, they will not require cellular networks, meaning they are free from the control that carriers famously exert on mobile products in the U.S.

As was discussed in the Advisory “Targeting Users: Application Level Innovation in Mobile Local Search,” carrier control in the U.S. has been detrimental to innovation at the application level. Sure, any application can be developed that requires users to go to a Web site on a WAP-enabled phone or download software. But these extra steps raise considerable adoption barriers, given that mobile local search is in an early adopter stage to begin with.

So the only search applications that end up seeing the light of day are those that carriers endorse and pre-install on the phones that run on their networks. This has unfortunately resulted in an anemic volume and quality of mobile search applications that get pushed through (this affects incentives to innovate as well).

The moves by Motorola and Nokia will push things forward for mobile local search by chipping away at this carrier control. The only problem is that these are just search platforms and don’t have calling plans. But if you combine this with the growing availability of Wi-Fi-enabled phones that can make VoIP calls when in range of a network (when municipal Wi-Fi arrives this will become more relevant), this starts to get really interesting.

These factors should begin to open up the market for mobile local search innovation, and we might soon end up with some compelling products to talk about, use and build local ad models around (and then a whole different conversation begins).

More coverage is at Search Engine Watch and in our previous post.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ram

    Handset manufacturers preloading local search directories is like carrying a digital yellow pages of all cities with you .
    They are not the solution but a good starting point as there are zillion other dimensions to local search- the most
    important being the currency of the data and UGC.

    We will see a mix of many things to solve this problem. handset manufacturers have fired their bit of the salvo –
    purely so that they sit on the table when the pie is being divided

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