Yahoo, with the second generation of its oneSearch product, has thrown down the gauntlet in the mobile search wars. Whereas Google employed a clean and easy-to-use interface to win over the desktop space, Yahoo is trying to make gains in the mobile space by taking a different approach: voice.
The more time I spend with my mobile, the more I realize what a godawful pain it is — even with a QWERTY keyboard — to type. Anything that would make the process less time-consuming (and free up my hands) is welcome, and is precisely the reason I use voice services such as Jott and Goog-411.
So using voice (powered by Vlingo) for oneSearch is a compelling proposition.
I’ve been playing with the oneSearch feature on my BlackBerry, on which it can be downloaded at m.yahoo.com/voice (the service won’t be available on other mobiles devices until July or August). It searches using natural language, so even a query as simple as “Find me the best craps in Vegas” return an answer. The plan is to make the search function and bar available on the home screen of the 29 carriers with which Yahoo has signed deals.
Not too long ago, I asked Google what making the Google search bar available on the home screen of a mobile device, which is done via download, had resulted in. The company estimated that such a move made it 40 percent easier to search, and that eliminating the need to click through to a browser had increased the number of Google searches by 20 percent. Presumably it’s even easier for a user to simply depress their call button and say a search term (one can also put oneSearch on the home screen), which bodes well for oneStep’s potential adoption rate.
With access to 600 million mobile users through agreements with carriers, Yahoo is putting up a real fight for control of the mobile. Yahoo’s vision of a platform sitting on top of a mobile operating system is compelling, but it can’t forget that Google is sidestepping the browser-based platform strategy entirely by offering up its own operating system with Android. Yahoo’s carrier deals look good today, but if Google ends up controlling the OS, they won’t be nearly as valuable down the road.