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Mobile Devices Get Their Own Internet Search Tools

The mSearch technology is built specifically to deliver information--and ads--most relevant to mobile users.

Mobile search is on the move. Fast Search & Transfer ASA, a search-technology company, on Monday introduced Fast mSearch, a mobile search application designed to help users find content that's relevant and functional for cell phones and PDAs.

MSearch won't have its own branded consumer service like Google or Yahoo, and instead will try to sell telecom carriers on the technology, which they can offer to their customers. While mobile users can do Internet searches today with tools such as Google SMS, the market for search customized for mobile content is just emerging.

Mobile users aren't getting what they need from the available search options, contends Mike Brady, senior director of business development at Fast. "While there may not be a lot of clamor amongst users saying, 'I've got to get mobile search,' there's a sense that people can't find their ring tones, their games, and their images," he says, noting that telecom carriers are struggling to find what customers most want to do with their mobile devices. On the Web, search technology has been a big part of the answer.

XJ Wang, a senior analyst in the Yankee Group's wireless/mobile technologies practice, sees mobile search engines as a potential killer app because mobile search can leverage the personal information that mobile networks already have in subscriber files. Personal information is valuable for delivering more relevant search results and more relevant ads.

Brian Lent, president, chief technology officer, and co-founder of Medio Systems, a mobile search startup still in stealth mode, likewise sees potential in mobile search. "It's a whole different universe for search," he says, pointing out that search on handheld devices differs from Web-based search in the technology involved, the user metaphors and experiences, and the fact that you can deliver location-based services through wireless networks.

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