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The Perfect Search With Your Cell Phone

You're on the road, your BlackBerry's on the blink, and you've lost the address for your business dinner. What to do? It may not be long before you can use your cell phone to do an Internet search. Except the company returning your answer may not be Google.

This September, Alltel Wireless announced a deal to develop a mobile search service with start-up JumpTap. Similarly, Verizon Wireless teamed with newcomer Medio Systems.

Start-ups are getting the deals because the telcos fear being outflanked on their own turf. Wireless companies don't want to wake up to a world in which the Google or Yahoo logo is popping up on their customers' screens--they'd prefer to keep that ad revenue to themselves. Mobile providers "have a small and shrinking window of time to get into this game," says JumpTap marketing vice president Eric McCabe.

Current efforts in mobile search are focused on consumers--letting them search WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and XHTML sites for ring tones, music and sports scores. Once the start-ups have established themselves, they'll likely offer more business-oriented content and capabilities--assuming the search giants haven't beat them to the punch. --Robert Hertzberg, [email protected]