Wednesday, May 04, 2005

AOL.... DOA or AOK?

I’ve been attacking Google and Microsoft lately for their inability to create a good mobile search application. Google is more creative than the rest, and it’s their “space” to lose at this point.

Microsoft is still working on their “Long-Gone” project” and if their attempts at mobile search are anything like their search on a PC, Bill Gates better get padded pants for another ass-kicking from Google.

But wait! Could there be another player in mobile search? Is there another “has-been” that is coming out of retirement and wants to give the “kids” a run for their money?

What company has already made their presence with a platform on the cell phone? What company has a foothold in both the PC and the cell phone? What company has a media conglomerate to provide endless consumer applications?

Quietly this company gained a foothold on 20 million cell phones and they are sitting on a mobile search platform.

To understand how search on the PC became so big we have to look at Google.
How did Google become so successful? They took a free consumer application and advertisers funneled money into it.

So who is this “has-been” that could be a serious threat to Google?

Who is this company? Their logo is a running man, very appropriate. PC’s and laptops don’t run, but the cell phone is always in motion.

When they unveiled --- Find Me they opened up an enormous can of worms for mobile search.
When you have 24 million users, you should expand the services you can offer to these people. These people carry cell phones too.

When AOL introduced their “Find Me” service, they (maybe they don’t realize it) created the perfect platform for mobile search. They have the perfect user base, the backing of a monster media conglomerate (Time Warner), and they are already on 20 million cell phones with their mobile AOL IM.

AOL with their mobile IM, and their “Find Me” application, has created a mobile search platform. They combine location based services (LBS/GPS) with a quicker way of mobile internet surfing (SMS/IM)

Does anyone else see this?

The only form of mobile search now is through an SMS request. Google and 4INFO offer this service. Internet surfing on a cell phone is too slow and there isn’t a true mobile search engine.

So that leads me to ask.

Why can’t you send an SMS request through an instant message?

By sending an instant message to a special username of AOL, can’t you let them resolve the query? Instead of sending an IM to an AOL member, you’re sending an SMS/search query to an AOL server requesting/doing a search. Instead of typing in 46645 (GOOGL) or 44636 (4INFO), AOL has created the short code for you with a special username.

Let AOL label this username as MOBLSRCH in our buddy list. AOL could automatically add this name when you download or reboot. AOL establishes an easy way to start a mobile search when you IM MOBLSRCH.

The “Find Me” buddy application is the GPS function, and the buddy list with MOBLSRCH creates the search window. They already have their own mobile search application on 20 million plus cell phones. Will they capitalize on this? Do they even know what they have?

Initiate an IM w/ MOBLSRCH and in subject box type “dominos” or “pizza”. AOL recognizes your location and sends back the closest Dominos or the pizzerias in your closest proximity. Could AOL “sell” these keywords to these companies? Would Domino’s pay to be included in this search? I discussed the googol possibilities here.

Include a map (with GPS function), address, phone number and website (if possible) in the search requests.

Could AOL make MOBLSRCH a group on your buddy list? If I’m AOL , in this group I would include “stock, sports and news”. MBLSTOCK, MBLSPORTS, and MBLNEWS are other “buddies”. You can send an IM to MBLSTCOCK for a quote on “GOOG”. Send an IM to MOBLSPORTS for the score of the “Yankees” game.

Do you see the endless possibilities? I do.

AOL has the Time Warner media conglomerate behind it. That includes magazines like Fortune, Money, People (already doing an SMS alert), Sports Illustrated (doing swimsuit screen savers), Time, Business 2.0 (one of my favs), Golf, Ski….TV stations like TBS, WB , HBO. Movie giants like New Line Cinema and Warner Brothers.

If Time Warner can’t figure out to make mobile advertising campaigns from this, I will be amazed. SI and People are already getting creative with their campaigns. The question I would ask them is “why didn’t you promote these mobile campaigns through your sister company AOL?”.

Looks like Time Warner has some cash to play with too. Hmm sell Google stock and fund the next search engine?

I see an endless supply of movie trailers, ringtones, screen savers, and alerts than can be created and delivered to the cell phone from this media powerhouse.

I see AOL turning a neat consumer application into a must have on the cell phone. Texting will be much easier w/ the Mobile AOL IM than looking for cell number on your phone to initiate the conversation.

I also see AOL offering the ability to store your mobile searches on your PC for when you get home. All search queries made under your username will be saved when you login on a PC or Laptop. AOL can call it “Things I Looked At Today”. I would call them “Electronic Post-Its”.

This is a good start in combining the physical world with the electronic one.

AOL is sitting on a perfect mobile search application and has 20 million plus people that could adopt it overnight.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interesting post on AOL. They were beginning to BUM me out. However, your observations tell me to take a deeper look before I change service providers.

TAG said...

Interesting. I wonder if AOL will "get it." can do everything that you are suggesting using existing tools. Check on the Builder product from Akonix (

Clara said...

Thanks for the link =) But how about people outside of America who can't get/don't use/have never heard of AOL? Inside of America though, definitely a good chance for them to grab the mobile search pie!

Anonymous said...

You bring up some great points - they have a killer if they knew what to do with it. Time Warner is a big ship that doesn't do synergies. They owned Roadrunner through their cable div yet never combined it with AOL Broadband. Now they're losing subs. It's startups like 4INFO in mobile search or in ecommerce seach that innovate, then get bought out.

Anonymous said...

AOL is so far behind the times on getting email on cell phones that they should finish that business first. It used to be easy to get AOL mail on my cheapo $49 phone...but when that went down after three years, now with smartphones they are totally useless. On top of that, they don't have a way to forward the email either to another web site.
After being an original AOL user, I am seriously looking at dropping them entirely in favor of one of my other addresses.