At CTIA, Yahoo unveils a smarter mobile search

Determined not to let Google get ahold of the mobile Web, Yahoo announces the 2.0 version of its OneSearch product--featuring more diverse results and voice-enabled queries.

Updated 2:30 p.m. PDT with comments and photos.

LAS VEGAS--Yahoo announced upgrades to its Yahoo OneSearch product at the CTIA trade show here Wednesday that it says make mobile search smarter, more relevant, and easier to use with voice-activation technology.

Marco Boerries, Yahoo's executive vice president of Marguerite Reardon/CNET Networks

Marco Boerries, the company's executive vice president of "connected life," introduced the new Yahoo OneSearch 2.0 during a keynote address, promising "instant answers to any query, not just Web links." This means that search results will expand from traditional hyperlinks into other media--a search for "New York" could yield subway schedules, for example, or a search for local sushi restaurants could bring up Zagat's ratings and reviews along with one-click reservations. And searching the name of a friend could provide links to the social-networking sites that the friend uses.

Yahoo is leveraging technology that it's used in a project for its PC-based search tool called "Search Monkey," which consists of a set of open-source tools that allow users and publishers to annotate and enhance search results associated with specific Web sites. The two applications share the same APIs (application programming interfaces), and Boerries said he expects some 1,000 publishers to work with them to help make search more relevant.

Also central to OneSearch is voice-enabled technology. "Consumers can search for anything, including flight numbers, locations, Web site names, local restaurants, and more, by simply speaking," a release from Yahoo detailed. The voice-activation software is now available for download on a number of Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices, and Yahoo has said that over the next few months it will be compatible with more handsets.

Yahoo OneSearch 2.0 combines search results with other published information. Marguerite Reardon/CNET Networks

Yahoo is using voice-activation technology from Vlingo, which announced Wednesday that Yahoo is the lead investor in a $20 million Series B funding round. As part of that investment deal, Yahoo has exclusive rights to the technology.

"We liked the technology so much that we invested in the company," Boerries said during a press conference following his keynote speech. "But we made sure that our competitors can't use it."

Boerries also said that Yahoo's voice-enabled search is different from Microsoft's more limited voice-enabled search because Yahoo's service allows people to find results no matter how they say a term or phrase.

OneSearch also includes a download called Search Assist, which encompasses recommended search results, predictive typing technology to speed up the amount of time it takes to enter a query--a key feature for small mobile keypads. Currently, this is only available for Apple's iPhone.

Yahoo plans to update OneSearch in the second quarter of 2008 with something that it calls an "idle screen search service," so that people can access the mobile Web and the search technology without needing to open their cell phones' Web browsers.

OneSearch 2.0 is Yahoo's latest attempt to stay ahead of rival Google in the mobile market. At the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, the company unveiled its Yahoo OneConnect mobile messaging and social-networking platform, which still has yet to debut publicly.

Yahoo pushed out the original OneSearch product at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last year.

"With the launch of Yahoo OneSearch in 2007, we revolutionized mobile search by recreating search specifically for the mobile phone," Boerries said in Wednesday's keynote address, adding that a total of 29 carriers worldwide are now OneSearch partners. "With Yahoo OneSearch 2.0, we are fundamentally changing the way consumers use the Internet on their mobile phones."

News.com's Marguerite Reardon contributed to this report.

 

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