The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is working on a mobile search engine that will help consumers find and buy mobile content such as ringtones and games. From the article:
With the new system, users would search for a piece of content — say, a U2 ringtone — and get back a list of providers as well as links enabling them to easily purchase the material. Eventually, Google would charge companies for high placement in the search results, much the way it offers “sponsored links” on computer Web searches, the people familiar with the plans say.
The project has apparently been in development for months, with Google collaborating with various content providers, but it’s been delayed significantly due to technical issues. The WSJ adds that Google is also considering implementing social networking functionality that will allow users of Gmail to exchange content with one another.
This gradual transition of services from the desktop to the handset makes it clear that mobile is the next Big Thing to watch. Global sales of mobile content were $27.4 billion last year, and are expected to reach $59.3 billion by 2011, according to the Yankee Group.
Google, for its part, has slowly been entering the field: testing recently began on a new AdSense-like system that will broker ads for other mobile sites, and it also has a deal with Apple to provide YouTube access on the iPhone.
- Yahoo launched their own mobile search app, Go oneSearch, back in May, and also has a partnership with Vodafone to show banner ads on cellphones for companies like Ford and Nissan
- Microsoft has multiple deals with handset providers to integrate the phone system with their Windows Mobile OS
- Time Warner Inc.’s AOL acquired mobile advertising provider Third Screen Media back in May
- Ask.com collaborated with Sprint-Nextel on a GPS powered phone app
While it’s a logical starting point, mobile search is most likely just the first of a series of projects Google has planned for the mobile market, and the rest of the industry is hot on their heels. This should all make for an interesting couple of months, as mobile services should be expanding rapidly.