Google is certainly ending the year with a bang. After months of speculation that the search engine giant would team up with China Mobile, the company has tied up with Chunghwa Telecom instead. The Associated Press reports the mobile operator will embed Google?s search engine in mobile phones (enhancing the operator?s so-called emome mobile service platform) from the first quarter of 2007. And the deal won?t stop there. Chunghwa Telecom, which is gearing up to spin off its yellow-pages services unit in January, will also offer Google Earth and Google Map services. In line with Google?s advertising driven model, the services will be available to users free of charge.
Chunghwa Telecom sees the deal as a way to spur migration to 3G services by encouraging mobile search on its mobile phones. The operator counts 840,000 3G users, and is aiming for 1.5 million in 2007. (It has over 8 million users in total and will offer all its customers access to mobile search.) The operator declined to comment on how much it expects the deal could boost its revenues. While the tie-up with Chunghwa Telecom will no doubt boost Google?s profile and appeal in the region, it nonetheless faces stiff competition from nearby rivals. Mobile search providers such as Cgogo and mInfo cleverly emphasize contextual and context-aware search results over long lists of links. In in the battle to win users and eyeballs, their personalized approach will certainly give Google ? and its rather plain-vanilla mobile search strategy ? a run for its money.