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Google Mobile Search Gamble: Everybody Wins?

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If you had billions lying around, what would you do with it? Most people don't realize that if you counted one number at a time, beginning shortly after World War II, you wouldn't have reached one billion by the turn of the century.

Google has billions, and while that's a more than a few bucks to the average Joe, it's just a days work for the search and technology provider. Google turned the search world upside down and inside out. Google wants to turn the media buying model upside down with an auction system for everything.

The discussion about changing communications just got serious. Counting from one to a billion is huge fun, but the real counting will follow in the upcoming FCC auction for Spectrum 700-MHz. Google phone? Google mouth? Google brain?

Mobile Search…by the Numbers

Depending on who you ask, 75 percent or so of the American population has some sort of mobile phone service. Queries on mobile phones for the most part parallel search queries on the personal computer, with a few possible exceptions.

Two Googlers, Maryam Kamvar, software engineer, and Shumeet Baluja, senior staff research scientist, did some research with Google's mobile search log data, released in August 2007. The anecdotal analysis reported that (aside from a lot of pornographic queries) the average user entered about 2.5 words in a mobile query compared to 2.35 words in a PC query.

Mobile users apparently have more time on their hands. According to Kamvar's analysis, users spent an average of 40 seconds entering a search. Roughly 35 percent of searches were of an adult or entertainment nature, and 4 percent were local. Oh yes, mobile searchers click more…

Mobile Search is a Rounding Error

Search activity takes a back seat to the ever enhancing technology available to access content on the Web. Networks, service providers, government regulations, and software all affect how we use the mobile Web.

The FCC auction represents a minimum financial commitment of $4.6 billion for Google and we haven't even begun to discuss devices and distribution costs. According to last week's analysis offered by Oppenheimer and Company, mobile ad revenue (not just search) will be in the neighborhood of $5 billion by 2010.

Oppenheimer's prediction relies heavily on Google's ability to "trigger monetization." The primary trigger centers around efforts from the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), a group of 30 technology companies committed to maximizing the mobile Web experience. The platform is called Android, and the group is committed to releasing handsets and other devices by mid-2008.

That's a noble, but lofty goal, considering the current state of mobile device usage.

Rich and Compelling

Android's success is predicated upon the user's desire to customize or create a device that is unique to his or her own needs. An open source device platform? Configure? Most can't program a DVR -- and I'm still waiting for open platforms on my other devices.

History has taught us that users don't necessarily know what they need until we explain what their needs are. Just look at iPod adoption rates and remember to keep it simple, stupid.

Back to Google. Everything has its place, and Google is fixing to have everything in your place.

I wouldn't consider myself abnormally paranoid, as I don't see black helicopters or double check my mail for prints each day. Having said that, Google already has my e-mail, my voice mail (and handles my calls), knows everything I search for, and who I share my searches with. Just how many things can you put in one place without getting a little nervous?

Next year is fixing to be the year mobile made contact for Americans. A series of lofty goals along with hefty expectations and price tags will make 2008 exciting for everyone.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go figure out how to watch the "South Park" episodes I downloaded on my Xbox on my iPod while trying to play my iTunes music on my BlackBerry.


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