RealTime IT News

Google Rolls Out Location-Based Search

As it continues to press forward with its ambitious designs on the wireless market, Google has rolled out a feature to its mobile search product that allows users to submit queries based on their location.

The "near me now" feature, which Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) previewed in December, is now live on the Google.com page on Android devices and Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone.

Once their handset provides location data to the search engine, users will be able to tap a near me now link to display local business listings in the area.

"We wanted to make it fast and easy to find out more about a place in your immediate vicinity, whether you're standing right in front of a business or if it's just a short walk away," John Eric Hoffman and Jussi Myllymaki, members of Google's mobile engineering, wrote in a blog post announcing the feature.

Google has made no secret of its intentions to expand its wireless offerings. Company executives have long talked about the tremendous revenue opportunity that mobile advertising holds, projecting that in the coming years, wireless ads will eclipse the PC business that has made Google one of the richest companies in tech.

Then in November, Google plunked down $750 million to purchase AdMob, a mobile advertising network, in a deal that has been held up by an antitrust inquiry.

And earlier this week, Google unveiled the long-awaited Nexus One, a handset of its own making that will compete with top-shelf smartphones like the iPhone and the growing crop of devices from other device manufacturers that run on its own Android operating system.

So Google, having every interest in making mobile search easier and more useful, is now trying to offer aid to anyone who might find themselves wandering around an unfamiliar neighborhood wondering where to get a decent meal.

Once users tap the near me now link, they have the option to refine their search by category, so the results would display only nearby coffee shops or bars, for instance.

Google's also offering an "explore me now" link, which offers information about local businesses, such as restaurant reviews, similar to the features Google and the other major search engines include in their PC versions.

The Near Me Now feature is available on Android phones running version 2.0.1 or later, and on iPhones running at least version 3.0 of that system.