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11/14/2008
03:24 PM
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Google App For iPhone Offers Speech-Driven Search

IPhone users will be able to search the Web without removing their gloves to type or pose questions like "Where's the nearest Starbucks?"

Google's mobile search application for Apple's iPhone, Google Mobile, soon will be able to return text search results requested by voice queries.

Apple is expected to approve an updated version of Google Mobile (iTunes link) on Friday and make it available in its iTunes Store as a free download. Google expects to publish details once that happens, according to a source close to the company.

Speaking with computers has long been a staple of science fiction, but it hasn't proven to be a particularly popular method of interaction outside crash-induced cursing and specific-use cases where keyboard, mouse, and touch screen aren't an option.

Mobile search could be one such use case. Just in time for winter, iPhone users will be able to search the Web without removing their gloves to type. They will be able to pose questions like "Where's the nearest Starbucks?" on those rare occasions, at least in major urban areas, when one or more Starbucks cannot be plainly seen.

Google is somewhat late to the voice-driven search party. Yahoo added voice recognition to its OneSearch mobile application in April. Microsoft's Live Search for Windows Mobile has had voice recognition since October, 2007.

Nonetheless, because Apple iPhone owners have tended to use Web and mobile applications more than owners of other smartphones, the Google Mobile app probably will field more voice queries than its competition in the coming months and perhaps collect more mobile search revenue as a result.

At the recent Web 2.0 Summit, developers and venture capitalists were bullish on the iPhone's future prospects, despite the overall economic climate. Raven Zachary, an iPhone developer and consultant, said during a panel discussion that 74% of mobile Web traffic originates from the 15 million to 20 million iPhones and Wi-Fi-enabled iPod Touches.

During a conference call for Google investors in July, company co-founder Sergey Brin noted that devices like the iPhone generate 30 times more searches than conventional mobile phones.

Earlier this week, Google redesigned its search results page formatting for searches done through the mobile version of Google.com, accessed via Safari on the iPhone. Local search results now include easier-to-use click-to-call links and "Get Directions" buttons, as well as Google Maps images by default.

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