I am sitting in the airport terminal, waiting to board the plane and I’m almost out of batteries on my iPod. I hook up my notebook computer to the wall plug nearby, then USB to the iPod nano. Well, might as well charge up my computer for that long continental flight, since there’s no armrest plug on the plane. A woman sitting across from me in the terminal was also in the same situation as me; she asked if she could use my notebook to charge her iPod mini too. She had checked in her laptop and I had a spare USB port free. Bugs me that I wasn’t able to copy some of her songs onto my iPod, but she did thank me with a drink, once we got onto the plane. Rather sad that my bag has a mobile phone charger, notebook AC adapter, and iPod AC charger, as well as all the other cables and connectors. I feel like a mobile utility company with all the plastic-shethed copper wire, I’m carrying around with me all the time!
Are we ready for Mobile Search? Can we make search engines like Google and Yahoo fit to the small screen (mobile phones)? It’s curious to note that as more companies migrate, setup outposts on WAP decks, the more confusion and chaos they are creating for the subscriber. I wrote about Google’s WAP search functionality and how it can be difficult to find digital content. However, if I wanted to use it as a Yellow Pages directory, merged with maps, then it does the trick quite nicely. But if I want to find the latest game from Glu or Usher’s latest digitized ringer, you’re in luck due to stacking of the WAP deck.
But what if you are trying to find something more obscure, say, “Caribbean Queen” by Billy Ocean, would I be able to find it easily? Or would it take me my entire morning commute sifting through the WAP deck and a couple of unsuccessful attempts texting in the search box. Frankly, unless it’s Hot, Popular, or Featured, chances are you won’t have the patience, nor the ability to easily locate the content you’re looking for. We are so accustom to point a web browser to a search engine, filter a couple hundred links on a large screen, and be on our way. But this experience has yet to translate onto the mobile side. So does this mean we have to create federated searches for all things mobile? At this point it seems like the big guys of Search are focused on what services they have and pretty much ignoring mobile digital content. One of the reason why is the level of integration between the Internet Portals and Mobile Operators is rather thin. Their incentive is next to nil, and they are definitely cut out of the revenue sharing between Operator and Publisher. But then why is the subscriber the one who ultimately loses, due to a poor experience on mobile?
I believe it’s another case of not understanding the customer. While it’s cool to show off to friends that the power of Google can be reached on my phone, I think many others have come to the realization that there is no way I could possibly sift through thousands if not millions of results given the state of bandwidth, screen size, and worst of all, the transcoding of HTML into WML or xHTML.
So what are we left with? Well, one idea is to have a company provide a search engine that you can bolt onto an Operator’s WAP deck and help subscribers find content. Everyone by now is familiar with the search bar on the web, so why not build that on the phone? Companies like Caboodle Networks who have launched their site
semantical.org are attempting to provide a white label search for both mobile and wired Internet portals.