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Now Google has its eyes on your mobile phone

Chris Jenkins | Sept. 15, 2008
Google also wants a world, or at least a worldwide web, that's compact enough to be searched comfortably from a mobile phone.

Google knows this. So having put the world on a stick, the company has now turned its gaze to local information, something that can be viewed as more personal, and therefore, more valuable.

The push for localisation is closely tied to the company's ambitions in the mobile phone space, which some internet watchers say may become even more important than the conventional computer-based web environment. Portable and personal, the mobile phone is seen as the ideal vehicle for location-specific searches.

Google's effort in mobile will be "absolutely huge", Lasnik says. "It's not just an opportunity, it's a core part of the future of search," he says.

So intent is Google on carving itself off a slice of the mobile internet that the company has developed its own mobile phone operating software, known as Android, which is expected to start appearing in phones before the end of the year.

Critical to the mobile phone's usefulness as a tool for finding things that are nearby is its ability to know where it is. More advanced phones now have accurate GPS satellite positioning built in, but even humbler models can do a passable job of determining where they are using information supplied by the mobile network itself.

"More and more people now have phones that can specify where they are, or they can give permission to have information on where they are sent to various applications," Lasnik says.

This information can then be used by the search engine to whittle down the information it serves up to something that's relevant to where the person is standing at the time.

Regardless of the endeavours of the local players, for many people Google is indistinguishable from internet search, so the way that it tackles a mobile, more localised web will influence the way such services develop.

Google already gives a significant amount of its technological attention to being better at second guessing at what people are actually searching, regardless of the words that appear in its search engine's minimalist window.

In the mobile world, this second guessing becomes even more important, Lasnik says.

"People are typing in shorter queries on phones and it becomes even more important to disambiguate what they are looking for.

"If they type in 'cafe', we don't want to ask 'what is the definition of cafe', or 'what is the history of cafes'. We want to say, 'hey, here are some cafes right in this part of Sydney'. "

Chris Jenkins is the online editor of MIS Australia.


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