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10/8/2010
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Google Closing GOOG-411, Microsoft May Shut Massive

Automated directory assistance and in-game advertising turn out to be tough businesses.

Google on Friday said that it plans to close GOOG-411, the company's first service to utilize voice recognition technology, on November 12th.

The shutdown will affect users in the U.S. and Canada, the only two countries where the service is currently available.

Google said the service, launched in April, 2007, helped lay the foundation for more ambitious services built around voice recognition, such as Google Voice Search, Android Voice Input, and Android Voice Actions.

For mobile users seeking information about a business without a smartphone, Google recommends sending a text message to 466453 ("GOOGLE") with the name and location of the business. Google will reply with contact information, assuming the query returns results.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is said to be planning to shut Massive, the in-game advertising company it acquired in 2006. The Wall Street Journal estimated that Microsoft paid between $200 million and $400 million at the time.

Citing confirmation from Microsoft insiders, Mediaweek on Friday said that Microsoft plans to shut down Massive before the end of the month.

Microsoft declined to comment on "rumors and speculation."

Mediaweek reports that Microsoft has been shopping Massive around recently but hasn't found a buyer. It says that Massive general manager J.J. Richards has been job-hunting and that personnel on Massive's technology and marketing teams have been reassigned to other projects.

Mediaweek attributes Massive's problems in part to a decision by major game makers like Electronics Arts to handle in-game advertising in-house.

Google, incidentally, also purchased an in-game advertising company, Adscape, a move some saw as a response to Microsoft's acquisition of Massive. Like Microsoft, Google doesn't appear to have done much with its in-game advertising acquisition.

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