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Ask Mobile's interface and search tool are designed to minimize keystrokes, increase navigability on small displays, and accelerate page loads to speed searches on the go. on Thursday rolled out a new service for searching the Web from mobile devices known as Ask Mobile.

Ask Mobile's interface and search tool are designed to minimize keystrokes, increase navigability on small displays and accelerate page loads to speed searches on the go.

The site supports links to key search categories directly from the home page, making it easier to navigate to relevant results. The design aims to save keystrokes for searches. For example, looking for the weather in the 94114 zip code requires 50 percent fewer keystrokes on Ask Mobile compared to mobile products offered by other major search engines, the company said.

"It's important for to do this because most of their competition, Google, Yahoo, and AOL offer a mobile search engine, as well as the carriers offering private-label search," said Julie Ask, senior analyst at JupiterResearch. "Although not many people use mobile search today, it's a good time to have and experiment with this type of application while the market is young and people's expectations are low."

Mobile phones offer several choices in search, such as SMS from companies like Google Inc. or 4INFO. About 45 percent of wireless U.S. subscribers use SMS search, compared with 10 percent using their phones for browsing.

Location-based application also will emerge, providing people tools that combine Web search with global positioning systems.

"The major engines will end up seeing more specific uses for search, for example, I can envision a day when you're walking down the street using your mobile, and you say 'Italian restaurant Boston,' and the search tool would return a list of restaurants in the area," said Philippe Winthrop, director of wireless and mobility research at the Aberdeen Group. "Because you have a GPS chip in your mobile phone, it will give you the distance and directions to the restaurant.", a wholly-owned business of IAC/InterActiveCorp, powers the site with its proprietary ExpertRank algorithmic search technology to provide users with relevant search results.

Ask Mobile offers access to search categories on the home page, including Web Search, Directions, Images, Business Listings, Maps, Weather, Bloglines, Area Codes, Currency Conversion, Horoscope and Time Zones. Services, such as sport scores and movie times, will follow the initial rollout.

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