Full Nelson: Mobile + Search + Taptu - InformationWeek

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2/13/2008
06:20 PM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Full Nelson: Mobile + Search + Taptu

In the weeks leading up to Mobile World Congress, at least 50% of the approximately 1,000 media meeting requests were from mobile content companies. Indeed, there's an entire hall here dedicated to content (and scantily clad women whose only English skills are Body English). The hall is at the top of a hill, so it takes some hiking in the chill winter air. But once you've gotten beyond WiMax (yes, why?) and LTE (long term evolution -- and by long, we mean looooong), it's nice to see what's suppo

In the weeks leading up to Mobile World Congress, at least 50% of the approximately 1,000 media meeting requests were from mobile content companies. Indeed, there's an entire hall here dedicated to content (and scantily clad women whose only English skills are Body English). The hall is at the top of a hill, so it takes some hiking in the chill winter air. But once you've gotten beyond WiMax (yes, why?) and LTE (long term evolution -- and by long, we mean looooong), it's nice to see what's supposed to be the end result.

Except this year there wasn't much to see, save for a brief appearance from Robert Redford and Isabella Rossellini. (Camera crews jostled for position, lining up for an hour and blocking the thoroughfare just to watch them watch a giant touch screen demo. Who knew we were paparazzi?)Problem 1: Nothing's changed from last year. Every mobile marketing company, every mobile ringtone company, every mobile video company, every mobile screen saver. All to be expected, but nothing to jolt you into rushing out and flushing your 2-year-old BlackBerry down the drain.

Problem 2: While everyone wants to sell the sexy new thing, it's the pedestrian applications that will drive consumption and change.

Take, for example, search. You'd think by now that this very basic, very fundamental application would have been solved, but it hasn't. Search results on mobile phones still turn up essentially what you see on your desktop/laptop. Yeah, OK, Google and AOL and Yahoo have all made it better -- query input is better, results are more relevant. But it's still a multistep process to get to your destination this way thanks to the limited real estate of the phone.

So while you're thinking about all the great location-based applications that we (the press) have been writing about for years, know that in search it's not there yet. I asked both AOL and Yahoo about location-based search, both claimed to have it, but you have to enter an area code or ZIP code with your search. Gracious. That's not really location aware now, is it. That's like having to draw a map for the postman on the back of the envelope!

Yahoo's OneSearch is a step in the right direction. The result set is far more useful, delivering what it thinks you're asking for if you request a sports team or a topic of the day.

Taptu, a startup based in the U.K., also has a compelling story -- perhaps even more so. It builds not only relevance into its results, it brings those results to within a click of accessing. It presents results based on a ranking of social popularity, provides categories (like blogs, news stories, videos), a nifty little summary of the item, and then a one-click way to share it.

Mobile video, location-aware marketing ... these things are technically here and feasibly coming, but let's not forget what a killer market search has been on the Web; after e-mail, it's the biggest opportunity in mobile, period. It's about time someone gets it right and then let's you take it with you.

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