Bid may herald cellphone search war / Microsoft, Yahoo combo could fight Google, others

Bid may herald cellphone search war Microsoft, Yahoo combo could fight Google, others

By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe Staff | February 3, 2008 The Boston Globe

Microsoft Corp.'s $44.6 billion bid Friday to buy Yahoo Inc. could potentially set the stage for yet another battle with search goliath Google Inc. - this time, on cellphones.

That's the next battleground for search as more people begin to use their phones to surf the Web, lured by faster wireless networks and devices such as the iPhone. Mobile search is nascent today, with the majority of people still using their phones for basic communication. But all three companies have been aggressively expanding their cellphone efforts over the last year.

Google said in November that it would create its own mobile phone platform and is bidding against incumbent wireless carriers in the ongoing auction of spectrum at the Federal Communications Commission. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Yahoo emphasized its mobile platform, and Microsoft introduced a voice-activated cellphone search that allows a person to say the word "movie" and receive a list of nearby theaters.

Meanwhile, start-up companies are moving into the fray - Cambridge's JumpTap Inc. provides search services for companies like Alltel Wireless, Virgin Mobile, and international operators and has raised $46 million over the past three years. Mobile search company Medio Systems Inc. in Seattle counts Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile among its partners. And Boston's Go2 Media Inc. provides local search services, trying to help people find on-the-go information, such as nearby restaurants and hotels.


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