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'Huge opportunities' in mobile search

Microsoft planning to cash in

Microsoft hopes to establish itself as a leading provider of mobile search services with the introduction of a set of technologies currently being tested, a company executive said today.

Mobile search is important because in many markets, including some Asian countries, more people access the internet from mobile phones than from PCs, said Suzan DelBene, corporate vice-president of Microsoft's mobile and embedded devices division. For these users, being able to combine search results with services that can sense a user's location is critical, she said.

"Those things are huge opportunities," DelBene said.

The technology being tested in the UK and the US, called Windows Live Mobile Search, allows users to search for local listings, such as shops and restaurants, and provides them with maps and driving directions. Users can also call any of the returned listings from their handset with a single click of a button.

Windows Live Mobile Search also gives users access to search results from the web, including blogs.

Microsoft isn't the only company looking to stake out its turf in mobile search. For example, Google and China's Baidu.com have signed mobile-search agreements with handset makers Motorola and Nokia respectively. One potential advantage for Microsoft is the growing popularity of phones that run Windows Mobile software.

In 2003, Microsoft had just one device maker and one operator signed up to support Windows Mobile for phones. Over the past three years, that has expanded to 47 hardware makers and more than 100 operators, helping to make Windows Mobile the fastest-growing division inside Microsoft, DelBene said.


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