Google Gets “Pole Position” On The Pre

Tomorrow Palm’s Pre (comeback) smartphone will go on sale through US carrier Sprint. In early 2010 it will reportedly come to Verizon, which opens it up to a much larger market. To date, the Pre has received mostly positive reviews, though, as with the G1 and soon ION/G2, reviewers seem to agree that it falls just short of the iPhone experience. Regardless it should prove to be a popular device. It’s significant then that Google has very high visibility on the new handset. According to the Google Mobile Blog:

As mobile technology geeks, we’re really excited to see a new smartphone launch from our friends at Palm. Palm Pre phone’s webOS works great with Google Search, Google Maps, and YouTube, which are built into the device. You can also easily sync your Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts to Palm Pre.

We’re big fans of Palm Pre phone’s universal search feature. Just start typing a query from the home screen (no need to launch the browser). If your query doesn’t match any contact info or the name of an application on your phone, you’ll be prompted to search either the web with Google, local places on Google Maps, articles on Wikipedia, or Twitter.

Google is already the dominant player in mobile search with market share numbers that parallel the desktop, though Yahoo and Microsoft both hope to change that.

As smartphones and their apps stores proliferate — now about 13 percent of the US handset market — there’s a question in my mind about whether search will be the universal tool in mobile it has become on the PC. I was nearly laughed at during the Google I/O developer conference when I raised the possibility that search might fall behind apps and even browser bookmarks as a “secondary” tool or use case in mobile. Yet search remains somewhat more challenging in mobile, even with tools like search suggest and voice search across all major engines or their mobile client applications.

At SMX Advanced in Seattle, which just concluded, I moderated the mobile search panel. While the majority of panelists touted the benefits and ROI of mobile PPC/search there was some mixed data from iCrossing about ROI. In addition mobile search volumes today are a fraction of what’s coming from the PC.

However, in another SMX session, Citibank’s Mark Mahaney made the point that Google disclosed in a document last year that about a third of all the company’s searches in Japan were coming from mobile devices. While we have to be careful about extrapolating mobile trends from Asian markets like Japan and South Korea, mobile internet use and search will clearly grow over the next five years. And at a press event a couple weeks ago, Yahoo’s Prabhakar Raghavan pointed out that in several large developing countries the company already sees more mobile search volume than PC search.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that many brands and national advertisers are starting to wade into mobile paid search with test campaigns. The article cites a JP Morgan Chase estimate that pegs US mobile search revenues at $129 million this year (up from $99 million in 2008). The estimate has mobile display at $94 million in 2009. With Google at least PPC advertisers can use essentially the same ads for both the iPhone and Android devices (and presumably the Pre soon as well). However there is less ad “inventory” for every Google search on those hadsets, four ad positions compared with as many as 11 potentially on the PC.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Mobile | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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