I have finally settled back into New York after a jam-packed visit to this year's CTIA Wireless in Orlando, Fla. One of the big stories in the wider media that, surprisingly, didn't generate much insider buzz at CTIA was the on-going war to capture the emerging mobile search market.Yahoo took the initiative earlier this week, showing off its new mobile advertising platform, called Yahoo Mobile Publisher Services. The new platform will let publishers post and manage mobile ads on Yahoo. Some big-name advertisers already are on board, including Pepsi and Hewlett-Packard.
Yahoo is making a strong push to win the mobile search market. Last week the company expanded its oneSearch platform to mobile phones.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft also is aggressively pushing mobile search with its Microsoft Live Search application on Windows Mobile.
So where is Google? Google is busy putting its applications, like Gmail and Blogger, on as many cell phones as it can. Earlier this month Samsung announced a deal to put Google applications on future phones and this week LG at CTIA announced a similar partnership.
While Google certainly isn't ignoring the mobile search market -- the text messaging extension to Google's mobile search tool is very useful -- the company seems to see more opportunity, at least for now, in getting as many applications as possible on the third screen.
Yahoo and Microsoft are trying to capture the mobile search market specifically, while Google seems more interested in owning the entire experience of the third screen. Google wants to get its software on as many phones as possible -- a strategy that doesn't look that different than Microsoft's early vision of putting Windows on every desktop.
Yahoo's efforts in particular seem scattered -- too many applications and confusing application names and not enough focus on the end-user experience across the services. Does Yahoo want to own just mobile search? Mobile search and advertising? Mobile e-mail, too? The answer is yes, but I don't think these products are as seamless as they should be.
So far, Google seems the most focused of the three. Google wants to win the third screen. Period. And it wants to win it the same way it won the desktop, but offering easy-to-use services that do what they promise. Are all of Google's mobile apps as killer the original desktop search engine? No, but many of them are pretty good. Yahoo and Microsoft, on the other hand, don't seem anywhere near this focused on the quality of their mobile products.