Above photo: Scott Huffman, left, and Amit Singhal of Google. With voice search, Google learned it had trained people to use keywords. (Photo credit: Peter DaSilva for the New York Times)
The future is in mobile search, no longer in desktop search (see Google Hails Smartphone Future), and the world’s biggest search engine is aware of that.
As Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reports (April 24), Google is examining “new ways to search on the go, by talking or taking photos instead of typing.”
A few highlights:
- The stakes are high for Google: “If people on phones could go straight to apps for information, why Google anything?”
- Google currently has the lion’s share of mobile search: The company commands 97 percent of the market, according to StatCounter.
- Google was slow to capitalize on social networking: “Investors have criticized the company for dragging its feet when it comes to figuring out how to make money in new fields.”
- Mobile ads sell for less than half the price of web ads. The company needs to get creative.
- The company’s approach to mobile search is “classic Google”: “Take problems that computer scientists have been working on for decades, throw huge amounts of data and computing power at them and assume that if the resulting product is useful to people, it will eventually make money.”
- Make mobile search easier, using photos and voice: “People can now snap photos of landmarks or wine labels to search for them using Google Goggles, speak to their phones using voice search and, on Android phones, translate spoken conversations between English and Spanish.”
It will be interesting to see how Google will connect its data with customers’ phones via mobile search. I’m imagining a scenario where customers would search for something they want to buy and Google would bring up a map indicating all the nearest store locations at which they could buy this item. The same could be done for food, clothing, music… anything really. And for each of the businesses listed on that map, Google gets ad money.
I have experienced the shift from desktop to mobile search firsthand, in my everyday routines. For instance, whereas I used to bring my laptop home from work every night (I don’t have a desktop at home), I don’t have to anymore. I can check my e-mail and my social networks, as well as Google random things –- all from my phone.
My experience is not unique. “Google says mobile search is not stealing time from computer searches,” Miller writes. “Instead, mobile searches spike during the lunch hour and evenings, when people are away from their computers.
“And while mobile users do search for simple things like weather and train times, engineers have been surprised at how many people also ask more complicated questions about business and politics.”
Instead of typing in a political question, you could simply speak it into your phone and suddenly answers pop up on-screen. That would be cool, not to mention money in the bank for Google.