April 12th, 2005

Google Launches New Local Services to Mobile Apps Product Suite

I received a press release from Google this am regarding local search being available on XHTML-enabled mobile phones. Cool, I thought. I checked the box that my phone came into to see if it was labeled “XHTML-compatible.” Couldn’t find this label on the box. Then I checked the web site that I refer to on a nearly weekly basis for instructions regarding how to use my phone. I did a search on XHTML there – “no results found.”

I decided to forge ahead anyway. I launched the browser, typed in the URL and saved it as a “favorite.” Don’t ask how many key strokes. Then I attempted to connect to the URL. I received an error message that the application would not work because my phone/browswer combination did not support the application.

So, here I am again. Lots of buzz and press around a newly launched application, but I can’t use it. I really thought things were going to get better when I upgraded from my ca year 2000 Star-tac.

I did try the application out on my PC. Not bad – my favorite Thai restaurant was the 6th listing among Thai restaurants in my zip code. Provided a phone number, map, etc.

I was less satisfied with the SMS format of the application. The first time I tried it – I forgot my zip code. The message disappeared into Never-Never Land or whatever the wireless version is. Well, I thought it had evaporated, but about 30 minutes later, I received a “sorry” message. The second time – it worked, but the two SMS messages I received only offered listings four or five deep – meaning my favorite Thai restaurant fell off the list.

What excites me about the Google model is that I don’t have to pay a monthly application fee – or a daily fee as in the case of Verizon SuperPages. Each of the applications I’ve trialed – Vindigo, Verizon SuperPages, and Google – requires the browser and air time. The experience that I eventually saw on the Web was fairly straightforward – what/where, but didn’t offer the flexibility of the Vindigo application. Vindigo helped me find my Thai restaurant most easily. Verizon helped me navigate around the restaurant.

411/Navigation applications are at the top of the list of information and services that consumers anticipate that they will both want and pay for according to our consumer surveys. Hopefully the applications and associated business models will evolve ahead of consumer demand.

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