Mobile Search Is (Really) the Next Big Thing

New Products Boasting Maps, Local Info Could Finally Drive Web Cellphone Use

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"It is clear that 2007 will be the year that mobile-search-query traffic grows substantially." That's what Google CEO Eric Schmidt told analysts during his company's earnings call in January. Schmidt hopes his prediction comes true, because mobile search could mean new revenue for the search engines. But are we ever seriously going to search while on the move?
Danny Sullivan has been covering the search-marketing industry for more than a decade and is editor in chief of
Danny Sullivan has been covering the search-marketing industry for more than a decade and is editor in chief of

We've certainly been told long enough that mobile search is the next big thing. Heck, Google rolled out its first mobile-search service back in 2000. Seven years later, it's finally going to happen? That long-promised reservoir of search queries will be tapped at last?

Color me a believer. Judging industry moves based on personal habits is dangerous. But a year with a broadband-equipped phone has transformed me into a mobile-searching madman. I search the entire web quickly, easily and cheaply. And I don't need a magnifying glass to view what I find.

If I'm just an early adopter, the search engines are working hard to bring others up to speed. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all announced a flurry of mobile-search products earlier this year designed to make it easier to get maps and local information. New partnership deals with handset makers and carriers also have been announced.

They're fighting it out because of the potential. Only around 17% of cellphone users in the U.S. have internet access, according to ComScore. Everyone expects the percentage to grow -- and for searches to increase.

So who's going to be the Google of mobile search? M:Metrics puts Google in the mobile-search lead, followed by Yahoo and Microsoft. But private-label mobile-search company Medio could beat out all of them. Meanwhile, carriers and handset makers such as Nokia are eyeing the space. It's hardly game over, especially if brands are built early.

So the search wars are going mobile. The battle to dominate the "third screen" is heating up. Maybe 2007 won't see a clear-cut victory or major growth. But now, more than ever, it's worth watching. Mobile-search opportunities that may have once seemed distracting to search marketers now deserve greater attention.
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