RealTime IT News

Microsoft Sends Search Live

Microsoft  is taking its Live brand of communications services into the mobile handset market in the hopes of gaining a larger share of the search market.

The company announced three new products at the 3GSM conference in Barcelona today: Live Search for Windows Mobile; Live Search for Java; and Windows Live for Windows Mobile, which it has timed to coincide with the global availability of the new Windows Mobile 6 client, announced last week.

The Live Search applications are available on both Windows Mobile, as well as Java devices, and provide mobile search capabilities with a twist: end users will be able to search for business results based on their location, which means they won't have to type any text to get a list of categories of business types with address and telephone details and options for mapping.

Live Search for mobile also uses global positioning capabilities to retrieve suggested routes; Virtual Earth technology for maps and directions; and real-time traffic data for 25 U.S. cities, with current conditions illustrated by green, red and yellow gradients.

Windows Live for Windows Mobile will provide customers with Windows Live Mail, Live Messenger, Live Search and Windows Live Spaces. It will also allow customers to link to their Outlook contacts and display presence information.

Steve Berkowitz, senior vice president of the Online Services Group at Microsoft, noted that the company is committed to enhancing mobile search for customers. Microsoft expects the new products to help "mobile operators, OEMs, and advertising partners access new revenues and differentiate their products," he added.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's presence at last year's 3GSM conference underscored the strategic importance the company places on mobility.

That strategy goes beyond simple branding, according to Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff. He explained that Microsoft is taking a two-pronged approach to the mobile market.

One approach is to put the Live brand front and center, promoting Live Search and Windows Live communication services on Windows mobile devices.

To differentiate its own brand, Live Search on Windows mobile has features that aren't available with Live Search for Java, such as satellite imagery and the ability to send search results to a friend.

But the company's strategy is ultimately more about its search engine than about its branding.

The deal that Microsoft signed with Sprint  in November, by virtue of which Microsoft provides search technology to the wireless carrier, is emblematic of that strategy. It doesn't get any branding out of that deal, but does get to sell advertisements against the searches.

"They're looking at mobile as a way of getting more people to use Live search, however those users happen to come to the service. Their overarching goal is [search] market share," Rosoff told internetnews.com.

That said, Microsoft has a slightly schizophrenic approach to mobility; Windows Live is part of the Online business unit, formerly known as MSN, and is part of the Platform & Services division. Mobile computing efforts are part of the company's Entertainment and Devices division, which is also the home of Xbox, Zune, and IPTV (among many other things).

Rosoff noted that "there could be some tighter integration between the two groups in the long term." * Corrected to reflect that Windows Live is part of the Platform & Services division, and that Mobile computing is part of the Entertainment and Devices division.