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Carriers Join Forces For Mobile Search

A group of international carriers including Vodafone, France Telecom, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, Hutchison Whampoa, Telecom Italia and U.S. wireless carrier Cingular Wireless this weekend said they would work together to develop a mobile search engine they hope will keep Google and Yahoo from dominating the emerging mobile search market. That's all great, but does anyone actually use search on their
A group of international carriers including Vodafone, France Telecom, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, Hutchison Whampoa, Telecom Italia and U.S. wireless carrier Cingular Wireless this weekend said they would work together to develop a mobile search engine they hope will keep Google and Yahoo from dominating the emerging mobile search market. That's all great, but does anyone actually use search on their cell phones?Both Google and Yahoo offer mobile search services. While mobile search is growing, it's still an emerging category -- as is much of the mobile Web with a few notable exceptions such as mobile e-mail and text messaging, which have arguably reached primetime.

That means mobile search is up for grabs and the wireless carriers are eager to try to win this category -- or at least monetize it -- before Google and Yahoo bring down the hurt.

So far Google hasn't been able to monetize its mobile search service, but that's supposed to change soon. Google CEO Eric Schmidt last week said his company plans to push forward with mobile ads, so look for them to start reporting revenue from mobile search -- and for everyone else to jump on the mobile search ad bandwagon.

This carrier search consortium, coopertition, partnership (if you have another suggested name, e-mail it to me) doesn't seem certain. Google has mobile search deals with several of these companies, including Vodafone and T-Mobile. Yahoo too has mobile search deals with Vodafone and Hutchison's 3. Will this new partnership mean the end of those deals?

From an end-user perspective, what will this mean? Carriers have traditionally passed the cost of any service directly to users. Both Google and Yahoo offer mobile search for free. Will the carriers try to end free mobile search and stick consumers with usage fees? Or will they try to beat Google and Yahoo at their own game, and sell paid ads? Stay tuned, the mobile search market looks like it could get interesting very soon.