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1/28/2005
03:24 PM
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Yahoo Launches Mobile Text-Message Search

Yahoo Inc. is providing mobile text messaging with local search, joining rival Google Inc. in targeting the growing popularity of cellular phone messaging.

Yahoo Inc. is providing mobile text messaging with local search from the desktop, reflecting the trend among search engines to target the growing popularity of cellular-phone messaging, particularly among teenagers and young adults.

With the Yahoo service, a person can look up a restaurant or other business on the web portal's local search area and click on a "send to phone" button that will send a text message containing the name, address, phone number and cross street of the business, Yahoo officials said Friday. Depending on the carrier, the person may be able to dial the number by simply clicking on it.

The service, which launched this week and uses SMS (short message service) technology, is available at no charge from Yahoo, but individual wireless carriers may charge separately for sending a text message.

Short messages sent to friends has become popular among teenagers and young adults, so it makes sense for Yahoo and other search engines to start expanding services, Robert Lerner, analyst for Current Analysis said.

"This may be a future driver (for subscribers)," Lerner said. "Text messaging is really catching on with kids and young adults. This is going to be really cool for them."

SMS technology today doesn't support inserting advertising with a message, but that would be the next logical step, as the service matures.

"There's a lot of limitations to (SMS) right now, but don't be surprised if in the future someone doesn't find a way to insert an ad and make a buck," Lerner said. "It's going to be tough on a small screen, but it's going to be there."

In October, Yahoo and Google Inc. launched search from mobile devices. For example a person could look up a business in either company's local listings and get back a text-message response with name, address, and telephone number.

Yahoo's latest offering makes a tighter connection between the PC and a mobile device, Sandra Cordova Micek, director of marketing for Yahoo, said. The service, for example, would be useful to someone who wants to send the location of a restaurant to his mobile phone, and later forward the message to friends in setting up a meeting.

The use of cellular phones is increasing too rapidly to be ignored by search engines, which started as a service for web surfers on home computers. Worldwide shipments of mobile phones in the fourth quarter of 2004 increased 24 percent from the same period a year ago to a record 194.3 million units, according to the latest figures from market researcher IDC. For the full year, shipments reached 664.5 million units, a 29.3 percent jump from 2003.

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