Without us really noticing, search has become the de facto interface to content online ? and is set to take center stage in our mobile content experiences as well. Will mobile search be the mega-trend that marks 2007? The jury is out on that one, but this insightful article in Red Herring points out that mobile search will certainly play a pivotal role in offering ?more accurate probes of local information, health information, gaming, music, and other areas of interest to consumers, as well as get better at finding the best deals in travel and real estate.? Not only is there a burgeoning market for search in general ? there?s place at the table for companies other than Google. (This article includes a good list of start-ups prepared to challenge Google at the local level, where the global giant can?t compete.)
While this particular article focuses primarily on Internet search engines, the observations are equally relevant to the mobile space where vertical search engines ? in the form of local-only search engines, mobile entertainment-only search engines and ringtone-only search engines - are gaining traction as operators (such as Asian carriers and NTT DoCoMo), and handset makers (such as Nokia) realize searchers want relevant results neatly divided by category rather than a long jumbled list of links. This approach also has its fans among media companies. As portal walls fall, these companies (such as Norwegian publisher Schibsted, which recently launched its own branded mobile search-enabled portal) are beginning to understand they have more than attractive brands that draw millions of eyeballs; they can use mobile search to monetize traffic and subsidize other content and services offers. (And other media companies have confided to me that harnessing mobile search for this purpose has a top-notch spot in their mobile content strategies in the next year.) Looking back on the flurry of mobile search activity and deals that marked 2006, it may appear that the mobile search race is run. But that couldn?t be further from the truth. Google, MSN and Yahoo will likely have to make some room for vertical search providers and a slew of smaller, more locally focussed, players.