Yahoo expands mobile search offering

Yahoo opened up its mobile oneSearch offering to anyone with an Internet-capable phone

Yahoo has opened up its mobile oneSearch offering to anyone with a phone who can access the Internet. The service, which aims to offer more than a simple list of search results, was previously available as part of Yahoo Go for Mobile, a mobile phone-optimized content offering that is compatible with only certain handsets.

With the expanded launch on Tuesday, Yahoo isn't hiding which company represents its biggest competition. A button called "Dare to Compare" on the oneSearch Web site opens a 21-page document containing screen shots that compare the results of a Google mobile search with a Yahoo oneSearch mobile search.

Rather than displaying lists of links as search results, oneSearch pulls up a range of results, including news headlines, images, business listings and reviews. In the comparison document, a Yahoo oneSearch for "pizza" results in first an advertisement, then name, address and phone numbers of two nearby pizza restaurants followed by a list of categories such as "carry out and take out," "pizza," and "restaurant." Other information that follows falls under categories including Flickr photos, news articles, Web images, products like pizza stones and movies.

The service is designed to make searching for and finding information as quick as possible, Yahoo said.

OneSearch does offer more than competitive mobile search offerings, said one analyst. "It's very different and perhaps does give better search results than you'd see on Google," said Jill Aldort, an analyst with The Yankee Group. "But that said, it's hard to change the consumer mindset which is so used to the dominant Google on the PC. I see it being a struggle for Yahoo to change that in mobile."

She's in the process of finishing a consumer survey about mobile search. Among teenage respondents, Google has a "huge" lead over any other search provider on mobile phones, she said.

The mobile search market has been heating up recently. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have all begun offering search services tailored to mobile-phone users. "It's all about capitalizing on any possible ad revenue they can get," Aldort said. With billions of mobile users around the world -- far more than the number of PC users -- the companies are hoping to reach a new audience with their mobile search offerings, she said.

The online giants are competing against handset makers like Nokia Corp. that often include their own search mechanisms in phones as well as startups like Medio Systems that offer search services that mobile operators can self-brand. In some cases, they may also be competing against the mobile operators. While some operators have partnered with the online search companies, others offer self-branded search mechanisms or prefer to try to control which sites users visit rather than enable them with search applications.

With the launch on Tuesday, 85 percent of mobile phones on the market can use the service, Yahoo said. OneSearch is initially available to users in the U.S. and Yahoo plans to roll it out in additional languages and countries in the coming months.

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service

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