Yahoo Launches Mobile Search Interface

Gretchen Gallen
SUNNYVALE, Calif. – In yet another move to rattle the gilded cage of search king Google, Yahoo Inc. launched a mobile web search interface just a month after Google launched a similar service.

The announcement was released through the Yahoo Mobile division, which launched in 1999 in anticipation of a burgeoning mobile industry that has taken five years to manifest, but which some analysts say is the next uncharted territory for Internet giants like Google, Yahoo, Amazon and others.

Yahoo's mobile search tool is compatible with AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Cingular and Sprint, and will only be available to U.S. customers during the initial rollout.

The mobile interface provides access to Yahoo Local, Image and Web search as well as stock quotes, sports scores, weather, maps and driving directions, the company said.

Additionally, the Yahoo Mobile service includes a mobile version of Yahoo Instant Messaging client and Yahoo Mobile Games. The service is currently being offered to users for free, but like many Yahoo services that began that way, a fee-based model could prove inevitable, depending on the popularity of the product.

"We think there are tremendous applications in mobile," said Doug Garland, senior vice president of Yahoo Mobile, adding that the software works on any color screen handset and can adjust to a computer key interface or numerical keypads.

The company also said that eventually Yahoo will consider tailoring Yahoo Mobile for GPS, but no plans have yet been announced.

The new Yahoo service shadows Google's search interface that allows people to use mobile phones or handheld devices to tap into Google's search engine via text messages or short message service (SMS).

Google also recently acquired satellite map firm Keyhole, which combines a multi-terabyte database of mapping data and images collected from satellites and planes and presents users with a digital image of a location request. Keyhole's three-dimensional software also gives users the option of zooming in to a location, tilting and rotating and exploring the entire area for parks, restaurants, ATM machines and the like.

There is some speculation that Google will soon incorporate Keyhole into a more complete mobile platform that will include the product's own search technology for finding addresses or businesses.

The terms of Google's acquisition of Keyhole were not disclosed by either company.