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June 13, 2006, 12:45 am
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If you use Google, the chances are that you search its index via the
But the company's ambitions do not begin and end with its online
presence. For some time now, it has been establishing ways for people
to use its roster of services via mobile devices.
The man in charge of the Google mobile mission is Dipchand "Deep"
Nishar. He believes that when people are out and about, they want very
different answers from Google than they would if they were sat in
front of a PC.
For instance, he said, the first result that comes up after typing
"film" into a PC browser is the Internet Movie Database.
"But type 'films' into a mobile browser and you are most likely going
to see a movie," he told the BBC News website.
"The same search query, because of the context, means very different
search results," said Mr Nishar. "Search on mobiles is about finding
"It's a smaller form factor and you are not going to sit at it for
three hours. Most people in the developed world are within 20 or 30
minutes of broadband and a screen, and that's when they will browse.
"On a mobile it's important that you find it right away."
This means that Google has to slice its huge corpus of data
differently for mobile users and tailor results to where people are
sitting or standing when they make the query.
What is also important to realise about mobile devices, said Mr
Nishar, is that they are far more personal than a home computer.
"A PC is much more of a shared device," he said. "But a mobile is not
something I share with anyone."
So far the bits of Google you can reach via your mobile are fairly
You can use a browser on your phone to send queries to the search site
as you would on a PC. You can also search for images or just search
those sites created just for mobile phones.
It is also possible to read your GMail account via a mobile and, in
the UK, you can search Google via text messages.
In California it is possible to get Google maps on your handset to
help if you are looking for a particular place.
Using many of these services requires a web browser on a phone but,
said Mr Nishar, only about 50% of the world's phones are powerful
enough to run that software.
Google does not make all its mobile services available in all
locations because different cultures make very different uses of their
For instance, said Mr Nishar, text messaging is huge in Europe and
China. By contrast, almost no-one in Japan uses it.
But the Japanese do make very heavy use of e-mail on mobile devices.
They also do a huge amount of net surfing via handsets.
In many nations outside the West phones are also hugely important ways
of going online largely because they are so much cheaper than a
In China, said Mr Nishar, there are three times as many mobiles as
PCs. In nations like Nigeria, people prefer mobiles because power
supply problems in running a computer.
"There are many emerging markets where people do not have a PC and
will never have one," he said.
Add in the moves towards using net phone services via wi-fi and you
can understand why Google is dedicating a lot of time and resources to
Eventually, the thinking goes, most people will be accessing Google
most of the time via a mobile device.
"It's going to get better, faster, cheaper thanks to Moore's Law and
become a better experience in the long run," said Mr Nishar. "It's
going to be a very important channel."
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