Mobile Tech

Yahoo to Mobile Searchers: Talk to the Handset

Yahoo has launched its next-generation mobile search service and also appears determined to get a jump on competitors by making it readily available to third-party developers.

Yahoo’s oneSearch 2.0, the new iteration of the company’s year-old mobile search service, will deliver a number of improvements that will allow users to perform quicker, more comprehensive searches through text and voice-based activation, the company said Wednesday.

“With the launch of Yahoo oneSearch in 2007, we revolutionized mobile search by re-creating search specifically for the mobile phone, focusing on answers, not just Web links,” said Marco Boerries, executive vice president of Yahoo’s connected life business. “With Yahoo oneSearch 2.0, we are fundamentally changing the way consumers use the Internet on their mobile phones.”

The company has signed 29 partnerships with carriers representing 600 million consumers worldwide, Boerries added.

Features Designed to Facilitate Searches

The product comes with such features as Search Assist, a predictive text-search completion mode, and a voice-recognition technology that adapts to a regular user’s vocal patterns.

The company is opening up oneSearch to third-party developers and publishers to facilitate integration of the service’s new search features, including its voice-enabled function.

That may be the most notable long-term benefit of oneSearch 2.0, said Chris Winfield, president of 10e20, a search engine consulting firm.

“The way it will be helpful to them is getting publishers on their side [by] saying, ‘Here’s another way we can send you traffic you’re not getting now,'” he told TechNewsWorld.

Involvement of major developers could cause oneSearch to take off, Winfield noted, adding that multiple major brands and entertainment firms could latch onto it early on an provide a boost for it.

Possible applications could include mobile shopping. “Will this tie into something where you can simply say what you’re looking to buy and never have to go into your computer to buy something?” he continued. “That’s basically where we’re going in a couple of years. This is something they’ll have to look at.”

What seems to impress Winfield most of all is that Yahoo, after being overtaken by Google in the search engine market, appears to have found a niche that it can once again dominate. Yahoo has accepted its fate that it’s not going to be the search leader, he observed. “I’m a bit encouraged that they’re looking at mobile and saying, essentially, ‘If we can do some innovative things there, let us be that leader.’

“They’re going to be putting a big push on the mobile side, and [voice recognition] is a cool feature,” he added.

Voice Recognition a Key Feature

Indeed, the voice-recognition search feature is a key selling point, said Scott Cleland, president of Precursor.

“The next holy grail is voice-enabled search,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Google, and especially Microsoft, have been working on it for a long time.”

Yahoo made a shrewd move in opening up the technology to third parties, Cleland noted. “You have to create a third-party platform that they can write applications to. This is all about do you want to be an island or have the widest opportunity for growth?”

That Yahoo seems to have taken a leadership position in this technology is not insignificant, he continued. “Everyone wants to establish a first-mover position. The early versions of this are going to be unsatisfying. Any time you talk about voice activation, accents are brutal. Computers have a terrible time with accents.”

If the technology can overcome that handicap, it will have cleared a major hurdle, Cleland concluded.

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