dcsimg
RealTime IT News

Vodafone Adds Google Search

Mobile network operators are waking up to the power of big brands like Google -- and putting them on their decks.

On Tuesday, Vodafone announced that it's working with Google to develop mobile search services for its subscribers. Vodafone will integrate Google's search capability into its consumer service, Vodafone live!

The new service, delivered through Vodafone's high-speed data networks, will let users search on both Vodafone live! and the wider Web simultaneously.

"Innovative mobile search will become increasingly important as fast and easy access to information and services are increasingly demanded by customers on the move," said Alan Harper, group strategy director for Vodafone in statement. "Our customers will be able to find relevant information and services faster, making the Vodafone live! customer experience even better."

The deal will further extend Google's reach outside of the desktop PC.

In January, Google announced a deal to link Google Talk, the search goliath's instant messaging platform, with Research in Motion's BlackBerry wireless e-mail service. Google released its first mobile version, Google Mobile Web Search, in June 2005.

According to a Reuters report, Google search will not be on the Vodafone live! Home deck, but a few screens in.

But mobile phone users aren't eager to click multiple times to use mobile search, said Jupiter Research analyst Julie Ask. "Search is hard to use on a phone, unless you have a QWERTY keyboard," she said. (Jupiter Research and internetnews.com are owned by the same corporation.)

On Monday, Orange Group and Vodafone Group said they were polishing off an agreement to launch instant messaging interoperability. The companies said this was an industry first, and that they planned to use the "calling party pays" principle, in which the person who initiated the IM would pay his or her carrier any charges for messaging. The two operators will use the open standard interoperability principles, established by the GSM Association.

Also on Monday, Vodafone and Microsoft announced a European version of Windows Mobile E-mail, to be deployed by Vodafone to business users in France, Germany and the U.K.

Google is not the only search provider to make news at the GSM Conference.

Yahoo became a platinum partner for Symbian. The Yahoo Go Mobile devices announced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show use the Symbian operating system. Yahoo also announced an agreement with Rogers Wireless to offer Yahoo mobile services to Rogers subscribers. Yahoo already offers a co-branded broadband Internet service with Rogers Cable of Canada.

"As we have seen over the last few years, service interoperability has unlocked the true potential for mobile. While we, as mobile operators, need to compete at the retail level, we must also continue to work together at the service interoperability level in order to stimulate customer demand and to continue to grow our industry," said Arun Sarin, chief executive at Vodafone, in a statement.

The companies hope other network operators will sign on for the interoperability initiative.

These deals show a growing open-mindedness among wireless network operators.

"Carriers have been wanting to control the experience and have their brand be top of mind with the consumer," said Linda Barrabee, a Yankee Group analyst. She said their rationale has been that, if they keep can customers within their walled gardens, they'll be able to get a greater share of revenue from advertising and purchases of content such as ringtones.

"But the market is evolving, and consumers have options to buy things via short codes or purchase content outside [the carrier's deck]" she said. Barrabee added that the vast majority of consumers still choose to buy content over the air or on their carrier's Web site, but she sees a movement among consumers to find and stick with preferred channels, which may be music artists or media brands