Monday, June 19, 2006

What Really Is Mobile Search?

As a Google executives publicly state that the big growth ahead lies in the mobile search market, I thought this would be a good time to review what Physical World Connection really is.

The search wars are heating up and it is becoming clear who is winning. But, what happens when Google runs out of runway space? What happens when the race changes venues?

PC Search is about finding the best solution/answer. And advertising. Advertising drives search. There are only so many programs on your pc (surf, chat, email and now desktop) that you can find ways to advertise on. When you cant put any more pay-per-clicks on your pc screen, then what happens?

How will search advertising continue this growth once this happens? How will advertisers shift their advertising dollar to the mobile device?

There will come a point when there is more internet traffic from mobile devices than PCs. What happens to search engines then? What happens to the Golden Goose of advertising when people wont be using a search engine to do their surfing?

That screen on your cellphone will be the most coveted piece of real estate to advertisers. People wont be using search engines on their phones.

What replaces the keywords model for the advertising dollars?

Physical World Hyperlinks.

Now that the hyperlink owner has a direct connection to his site using a 2d code, outside of advertising, where is the need for search engine optimization? You are already optimized!

So now every barcode on every can of Coke, 2d code on a movie poster, becomes a hyperlink, or direct connection to wherever Coke wants you to go.

4 Billion websites and hundreds of billions of physical objects have now found their own way to direct traffic without using a search engine.

Companies wont give out websites to go to, they will advertise using 2d codes and get a direct connection, bypassing a search engine. They will put a code on a poster, or magazine ad, or a short code on the tv screen. When any user types, scans, texts this code, they will be directed to the specific site that company wants you to go.

What happens when the physical world hyperlinks can link to the Internet? How does Google sell their keywords to these sites now? There wont be algorithms to decipher to put your site at the top of the search request. The physical world hyperlinks will be the direct link. How will Google and other SEs get a piece of these 4B plus unique hyperlinks? This registry will replace keywords.

Will you really want to see the first page of 1200 top ten results for a search on your mobile?

Between the slowing growth of PCs and the number of mobile devices connected to the Net, search and advertising will change. What companies will see this first and dominate Phase 2 of the internet. Offer the browser for the physical world?

Phase 1 was about surfing, searching, chat, email. Machine to machine form of communicating. It was revolutionary, it disrupted many industries, it made our economy so much more efficient and it created many new powerful companies. The Ebay, Amazon, PriceLines found a way to create businesses from Phase 1. They recognized how commerce would change with the introduction of the internet and created businesses to accommodate this change. Not only did they disrupt the traditional method but by utilizing the internet they opened up the boundaries for potential customers.

Now comes Phase 2. This is what ubiquitous computing is all about. Phase 2 is when every physical item in the world can, and will be, connected to the internet. People are no longer stuck at their office, home pc, they are mobile, using their mobile devices for more than speaking.

The combination of a portable microprocessor and trillions of objects having their own link to the net, this is Phase 2.

When you walk down the street, look at how many people have their cell phones/PDA's in their hand or in their pocket. How many operating systems are now mobile? How many browsers are there that are untapped? Everyone of those cell phones represents an internet user. Another pair of eyes for Google. A way for Google to generate advertising, but how?

How can Google continue their search/advertising dominance in the mobile world?

What if MSFT unveils the browser for the physical world. The PCs are walking, untethered.

This is transformation.

How does Google and others get these users to their site when I'm not at a desk? What does search look like when it's mobile? How will we surf/search when we are mobile? How do advertisers and service providers generate revenues (more than the 15.00 unlimited web access a Sprint has).

What happens when society is surfing more w/ their mobile device than the pc? What does Google do when this happens? Will they recognize there will be more Google eyes on mobile devices than pcs? How do you sell keywords for this?

The bigger question, as an advertiser, how do I advertise with this new medium?

Advertisers are still trying to catch up with the eyeballs that left TV to the stationary Net. What happens when the net shift goes from the pc to the cell phone. Will advertisers realize their new mediums are the supermarket, the restaurant, sporting goods store, billboard, movie poster,..or in other words, every physical object in the world with a unique identifier.

Google says their database is up to 8B now, MSFT bragging about 5B. The 1B cans of 12 oz Coke represent 1B ways to get to just one site. So instead of offering access to 8B sites, there are now 1B ways (just 1 12 oz can of Coke alone) to get to Cokes site. Remember search/surf changes when it goes public.

What happens when every can of Coke can be hyper-linked to the net? Or every Elton John CD, or every menu, concert ticket, street sign, business card, bag of Pringles. With a direct link to the net, why do I need to pay Google for this? If I'm Pringles, I don't need to pay ANY search engine to get me at the top of the list. I'm already there and I am interacting w/ my consumer.

Advertisers will now have a service that measures an ads effectiveness immediately. It will merge the advertising in the physical world (magazines, TV, cereal box) with the internet.

How much is this worth to a brand manager? Now every physical item in the world becomes a hyperlink to the net, bypasses any search engine, and is the medium by which advertisers will advertise and conduct e-commerce. What companies will see this first?

Will Google realize the PC market is finite? The vehicle for their advertising is shrinking and is now becoming mobile? There is a head on collision coming. The search engine and the physical world hyperlink are on the path for a head-on collision.

I'll put my money on the hyperlink, it is everywhere, doesn't matter who's OS is, will be marketed by the advertisers, and will give me a direct connection.

MSFT, Symbian, Palm are on all of those untethered pc's (cellphones/ PDA's) where is Google? Texting isn't a direct connect. The question is who will have the physical world browser/OS for this?

Google is stuck in the electronic world.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Scott. No offense, but it has been a while since we've seen a really good (and "player-neutral") article from you in a long time. I consider this the child of "We Interrupt This Broadcast".

Anonymous said...

This post ranks among the top few of your very best posts, your seat belt fastened for THE collosal collision you describe??

Scott Shaffer said...

Registry, database etc.

When 1d or 2d codes are identified or "linked" to a website they will be in a database/registry of sorts.

For example in this post that makes Yahoo and Flickr so powerful.

"Budweiser uploads their logo and a 2D code to the Flickr database"

Google has Google Images
Getty Images teamed up with Sprint and Cingular

Active Symbols uses the Corbis database.

The bigger the database of 2d codes, the more useful the code scanning application will be.

Anonymous said...

A very interesting post, Scott.

It is impressive how resistant many people in technology seem to be to the idea of PWC. I do think it has much to do with their attraction to purely electronic solutions. They truly seem to believe that everybody will be perfectly happy to learn complicated interfaces on mobile devices in order to input their intents. They can't seem to believe that most people don't want to be bothered to learn such things, or that they won't be delighted to perform them at every instance.

Recently, I mentioned to someone in technology how bar codes might enable mobile devices to do a variety of things. I described how one might look at poster, decide one wanted to buy a ticket to the event advertised, and simply scan a code to go to the web site to buy a ticket.

Her response? But you can already order a ticket via a browser on the cell phone, so why is this technology of any real value? I had to patiently explain to her that, yes, one COULD in principle order a ticket through a web site via entering URLs, etc., but that it was such a difficult process, virtually nobody does it. On the other hand, a scan could take one directly to a screen that asks if one wants to buy that particular ticket.

I'm not sure this person ever really got it. And the kicker is that she is the VP of technology in a company whose exact goal is to make input into cell phones easier and more intuitive.

In general, if it's not purely electronic, if it doesn't involve a chip, the ubergeeks of the technology industry can't really see it, and will usually find a way to deride it.

And I'm guessing that's what's going on at Google, not to mention a number of other technology companies.

Anonymous said...

Just to follow up on my post, it's useful, I think to remember what the initial reaction of most people in technology was to the introduction of GUIs on PCs.

The response was, why on earth do you need a GUI, with that silly mouse and click stuff? What are you, total dumbass wimps? Don't you realize you have so much more control when you use the command line interface? Why would you settle for something so limited as the GUI?

I think one sees the same resistance amongst these people to the idea of having physical world hyperlinks. They will never, ever get ease-of-use.

Anonymous said...

Many would rather fight than "switch" if you'll forgive this pun that few will comprehend at this point--unless you're a plumber of course, and have been digging into the underbelly of the wireless telecom beast and checking the pipes for slowdowns or blockages. Perhaps there's a new doctor coming to town who can perform needed bypass surgeries...without even disturbing the patients. Then there will be "links" galore and not the "kinks" galore out there now.

streetstylz said...

Thank you for the very informative post reminding us all what a facinating and forthcoming technology physical world connections will be.

I remember reading a very similar post of yours back in 2004 on the MSN Search's Weblog:

Good stuff :)

Ron said...

Scott, a customer on the move is behaving differently then someone behind a PC. Its not only about limited LCD size and difficult key boards, its about business models that apply to the mobile customers needs. PWC's are about an easy user interface to enter a physical world link but more important is are the services that will be developed. The comming year we'll see business models come and go, what will work? I guess those who do it and are most responsive will win.

Threads are clear: patent issues, no PWC standard and the Molochs of this world who shook up the Internet as the new guys (Google) but don't understand this new medium: mobile internet.

So guys and gals start to walk around and wonder, what would you do with PWC tech in your phone that realy ads value to your mobility? I put my money on the PWC service providers.

rich said...

I think your right on with PWC, however I dont think creating a new 2d code system (or bar codes for that matter) is where its going. I envision something like image search/recognition being the future. The image is the code system itself.

Anonymous said...

As a mobile software developer concerned about the high cost of wireless data, one of the things I like best about the physical world hyperlink idea is the prospect that it could make wireless data free or nearly free to consumers. The value of getting a consumer to "click" on a link with their handset while the product is in their hand and the checkout counter a few yards away is huge. Quite possibly enough to completely cover the cost of wireless data subscriptions for a user who clicks such links on a regular basis. Viewing ads could be a way for users to "recharge" their wireless account at no cost to themselves. There's a great business opportunity here for the wireless carriers as well as advertisers--and a boon to mobile users who will be far less tolerant of an advertising experience that they don't initiate themselves than they are when sitting at their desktop.

my own post about this

Thanks for evangelizing the PWS idea, Scott.

David Beers

Scott Shaffer said...

It kind of relates to If I Was A Service Provider

Scott Shaffer said...

Generic images would be ideal to use as physical world hyperlinks, but that would require an enormous database.

I was told by a company that resolves images, that up to 10 images of the same item are required in order to resolve it.

Difft angles, lighting, size etc.

The 2d code, barcode have a unique "dimension" and algorithms can resolve the code based on what image is presented.

Riya does sound interesting though.

Shawn McCollum said...

I see PWC to be really big but I can also see them being reused for other purposes. The method to read and produce PWC codes is going to be open for anyone to program with. Now while that link hidden in the code can be used to access a web site, I have a feeling that there will be more uses for that piece of data. It's just a string of characters, so the real power is in the software your using that interprets the code. Say I use comapany x's code reader that reads codes and sends me to the website embedded. Then company y produces a code reader that reads the codes and then gives me a list of options on how I want to use the code. I could follow it to a web site or I could use it to query shopwiki or froogle to see if an online store or one near me has it for less. It could also allow me to hit a fictional site called coupon wharehouse where the data in the code is used to query not only coupons for the product but also coupons for competing products.

I think Google will still have a number of users running queries. As cool as PWC are, at any given time your only going to have finite number of PWC's available. So if your at your at your kids soccer practice and one of the other adults tells you about this new widget your going to need to run a search if you want to view the website. Given the predictions of mobile internet growth and if just 10% of mobile users need to use google for search they'll probably even out with the losses from desktop searching. I think that Search Fragmentation might play a greater role in beating up the 800lb fluffy bunny that is google.

Anonymous said...

I think you may have missed a key item about search engines. Google doesn't simply allow us to link to a website, rather it allows us to link to a website that is useful to us. For example, I don't care if there are a million ways to get to BMW's website, because as Douglas Adams wrote in the Salmon of Doubt "if you want proper grown up information about BMW the last place you will want to go is to". In order for businesses to make search engines obsolete, they will need to get past their conception of websites as brochures and embrace the idea that their websites should be a community that allows users to exchange truly useful informaiton about their products/services. Until then, there is no way I will linke to to learn about coke, because the content is so compromised that it is useless.

Anonymous said...

just found your article - so, sorry it's such a late response. It was certainly interesting, if more questions than answers. I think you're selling google short however. When mobile devices break out of the operator's walled garden, it will be through wi-fi. To address an internet of things plus the free mobile devies it will take ip6. What have google been buying swathes of?
ip6 addresses.

Scott Shaffer said...

Google Talk, Google Wi-Fi, Google Radio, Google Pay etc..

I can see what kind of infrastructure Google is building.

I agree, Google could throw a couple switches and own the Internet of Things.

Anonymous said...

If the product is right there, what is keeping you from picking up the product and reading the information on the label?

It may not become the "end all - be all"