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.

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