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Google puts mobile firmly first

New developments in mobile phone technology have shifted the search giants focus to mobile advertising. What are the latest developments to emerge from Google’s mobile labs?

“Our programmers are doing work on mobile first,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February.

Eric Schmidt predicts that smart phone sales will soon out pace PC sales and has switched Google’s internal focus to mobile applications. He said: “Phones are so much more personal and satisfying. The phone is no longer just a phone, it’s your alter ego – it’s fundamental to everything you do.”

He is right. Mobile search is taking off. Google must see enormous potential in mobile search advertising to shift the focus of the company when considering that Google’s primary source of revenue is its flagship PC adwords programmes which totals $21 billion annually.

The advancement of smart phones such as the Blackberry and the Apple iPhone have opened the eyes of many consumers to see their mobile phone as much more than simply a making call and texting. The introduction of 3G, the name given to the newer high speed telecommunications network, and low data tariff rates will see mobile web users top 1.7 billion by 2013, according to Juniper Research.

Google’s mobile application includes voice search where a user can speak a query into their phone which is then analyzed and entered as a search and is perfect for driving situations when users are looking for a local service such as a petrol station.

The application will also take note of your location using the GPS system built into most smart phones and tailor searches based on your location.

Global revenues from location-based services could soar to $12.7 billion by 2014 according to Juniper Research. The more traditional applications normally associated with Google, such as Maps, Street View, and Gmail are also all ready available on a mobile device.

Google Latitude is one of the relatively new location-based services. It allows you to see where your friends are on a map after they agree to allow you to see their location. Latitude users can then see if their friend is a few blocks away and meet up. To enable people to control their privacy, users can share, set, or hide their location or even set a level of detail for their location. For example, users can set their location to only show that they are in the city of London and not the street name.

Android is a mobile operating system developed by Google which rivals the iPhone OS and Windows Mobile. In February 2010, Android were shipping 60,000 handsets per day. The mobile operating system works with Google’s Nexus One, dubbed “the Google phone”.

It is built by the HTC corporation and boasts the ability to transcribe voice to text and a GPS guided turn by turn voice directions to drivers. As an indication of how significant the announcement was of the launch of free turn-by-turn directions by Google, Tom Tom, the automotive navigation company, saw its stock decline by over a third in one month based on the announcement that Google was to be their new competitor.

Currently, users can only search using voice or manually inputting text. Google’s latest application for its android operating system is Google Goggles which allows users to take a picture of an object with their camera phone which can then be analyzed and return a relevant search result.

This has applications for tourists wanting to translate foreign menus or even browsers looking up information about a book instantly by taking a picture of the cover. They say it is science fiction that drives imagination and innovation in real life but it is eminently possible that Google will be driving science fiction creativity for years to come.