There are many who are touting the huge potential of the mobile web and there are many others who are pointing out the considerable hurdles the mobile web must overcome.
The mobile web seems to be developing with difficulty for a number of reasons:
- cell phones have small screens
- keypads are difficult to use
- websites are rarely developed to be mobile friendly
- data transmission costs can be exorbitant.
Despite this it is clear that market demand will be very strong for the right products. People are on the go. They want Internet access where they are. The no-brainer solution to servicing this demand would clearly seem to be to use the voice recognition capabilities of the cell phone. The two giants show this week that this is the path they are following.
As the Google Blog tells us, people are spreading the word about GOOG-411 to friends and families. Google reports that their local business info service has officially graduated from Labs. To mark the occasion, they’ve launched a brand new GOOG-411 website.
GOOG-411 helps callers find and connect with local businesses just by dialling 1-800-GOOG-411. It’s a voice-based local search service, which means it uses speech-recognition algorithms to recognize what a caller is saying and then finds the local business information he or she is looking for. These algorithms had to be trained with real utterances, much like how a baby learns language by listening to its parents. Since its unveiling in April, GOOG-411 has successfully served millions of callers.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft joined the voice-operated search field, with a free directory-assistance service for mobile users. Live Search 411 (FAQ) delivers local listings as well as weather updates, movie show times and airline information. Users with Internet-enabled devices can also receive links to maps and one-click driving directions. It also works with regular PCs. Last month, Microsoft rolled out several enhancements to its core Live Search portal, including updates designed to improve results for queries related to entertainment, shopping and health care.
Unfortunately neither GOOG-411 nor CALL-411 is available in Canada as of yet. Undoubtedly it will not be long before these services are available since they are certainly precursors of how many of us will be accessing the mobile web in the not too distant future.