Confirmed: Bing 411 Closing June 1st

Microsoft is closing down their toll-free voice search program named Bing 411. I have confirmed the Bing 411 service is closing by calling the service and hearing immediately the message: Bing 411: On June 1st, we are discontinuing the Bing 411 service. There were reports of this via LiveSide where they said they "received a tip" on this news. But this is indeed happening and Bing is closing down their 411 service. Google shut down their GOOG-411 service back in 2010. Bing kept theirs live hoping to fill that void, but clearly with the rise of smartphones and voice search embedde [...]

Marchex Acquires 800-Free-411 Owner Jingle Networks

Marchex announced this morning that it was buying Jingle Networks, operator of free directory assistance service 800-Free-411, for $62 million in cash and stock. Founded in 2004, Jingle Networks also has a pay-per-call mobile ad network. Jingle's 800-Free-411 competed with GOOG-411, which was closed down last year, and Microsoft's Bing-411, which is still operating. However Jingle was the leader in the "free directory assistance" segment. At one point I called free-DA "local-mobile search for the rest of us." That was before the dramatic growth of smartphones, which have continued to ero [...]

Windows Phones Finally Arrive With Dedicated Search Button

Get in, get out. That's the idea behind the new Windows Phones: get access to content quickly and "get back to your life." Personalization and simplicity are also key themes of the new Microsoft mobile experience, which officially launched this morning with speeches from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega. Without mentioning Apple or Android, de la Vega lauded Windows Phones as offering a "breakthrough experience"  . . .  "unlike anything you've ever seen." As the iPhone heads to other US carriers (i.e., Verizon) AT&T is shifting its focus to embrac [...]

GOOG-411 Winds Down, Bing-411 Parties On

Yesterday Google announced that it was shutting down 800-GOOG-411, the free directory assistance (or voice search) service it launched in April, 2007. Back in those days the mobile landscape looked very different than it does today. It was challenging to conduct searches on most mobile phones and the iPhone was in its infancy. The first Android handset, the G1, was still almost 18 months away. The conventional wisdom was that "free DA" would become a booming segment in mobile, with lots of usage and potential ad revenues. Many of the large telco-incumbents that provide traditional, paid 411 [...]

Report: ChaCha Voice Search Beats Google, Yahoo/Vlingo In Accuracy, Reliability

A new report finds that mobile search and answers service ChaCha beat Google and Yahoo's voice search tools in terms of overall accuracy and reliability across a range of query types in a controlled study. The study was conducted by Albright Communications/MSearchGroove in January of this year. The report, which can be downloaded from the ChaCha site, was sponsored by ChaCha but the authors said, "While ChaCha sponsored the study, it was fully removed from the planning, testing, analysis, and reporting of this work." The methodology was very specific and relatively elaborate. I summarize it [...]

Microsoft’s Tellme Offers Improved Mobile Voice Search Experience

Tellme has been in the speech, automated directory assistance and "voice search" segment for a decade. Two years ago the company was acquired by Microsoft for roughly $800 million. Since that time the two companies have been working on integration and developing next-generation services. Tellme powers Microsoft's LiveSearch 411, among other services. Today, two years to the day after the acqusition, Tellme made two related announcements about improved speech technology and an upgraded mobile user experience. (Here's the enterprise-facing release.) On the consumer side of the equation, Tellm [...]

Microsoft Continues Peeling Off Yahoo Search Talent

Microsoft (so far) has been unable to buy Yahoo or Yahoo search assets, so it instead continues to take search talent away from the company. Last year Microsoft successfully lured engineering lead Qi Lu from Yahoo to become head of the company's Online Services Group. Redmond also recently nabbed Sean Suchter from Yahoo. Now Bloomberg and CNET report that another Yahoo executive, Larry Heck, will be working on Microsoft search. Heck was, until now, Vice President of the Search & Advertising Sciences at Yahoo Labs. Before that he was Vice President of R&D at Nuance Communications, "w [...]

A Local Look At Microsoft’s Bid For Yahoo

Last Friday, shortly after the Microsoft bid for Yahoo was made public, Danny and I had an opportunity to discuss the proposed acquisition with Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of strategic partnerships for Microsoft. Our questions to Mehdi often returned to post-acquisition "integration" issues. I brought up local, maps, and mobile as areas where both companies had made significant investments but also had significant duplication and redundancy. Mehdi responded, "We have not made decisions at that level, such as what to do with maps or mobile products. Every alternative is on the table. We [...]

Microsoft Releases Upgrades For Maps, Local, And Mobile

Late last month, at its "Searchification" event, Microsoft introduced a wide range of search enhancements and improvements. The company also said there would be additional updates to follow. Those are now rolling out and include feature and content enhancements for maps, local, and mobile services. The biggest news is the introduction of a new voice search product called "Live Search 411," built on Tellme's content and voice capabilities. In addition to local business listings, the service provides movie show times, weather, and airlines information. We haven't had a chance to test drive or [...]

AOL Buys Third Screen Media Ad Network

Seemingly in parallel with the land grab going on online, mobile M&A is heating up. Earlier this month, Microsoft acquired EU ad firm ScreenTonic and prior to that voice services and directory provider Tellme. Today, mobile ad network Third Screen Media went to AOL and will become a subsidiary of Microsoft had been seen as a Third Screen suitor earlier in the year. Third Screen is a strategic acquisition for AOL, as mobile becomes a more important category and advertising becomes the source of more and more revenue for AOL. [...]

Microsoft Buys EU Mobile Ad Firm ScreenTonic

Microsoft announced earlier today that it had acquired six-year-old European mobile ad platform company ScreenTonic. Last February, Microsoft acquired European mobile search provider MotionBridge. This past March Microsoft bought Tellme. Thus, the company is putting together an impressive suite of mobile assets for both consumers and carriers. Microsoft said it intends to deploy the ScreenTonic technology globally. And while Google and Yahoo are largely perceived as threats to carriers (justified to some degree by recent consumer research from iCrossing), Microsoft is seeking to position its [...]

Microsoft’s Tellme Launches Three Local Search Services

Microsoft, which recently acquired Tellme Networks, announced three new local business search services, all accessible via phone. The new services include: Tellme by Voice: Call 1-800-555-TELL and just say "business search" to find a business listing or search for a particular category, such as "flower shops," from any phone, including a map for the selected listing. Callers can also choose from many other great services like movie tickets, ring tones, sports, news and more. Tellme by Text: Send a text message to TELLM (83556) with a business request such as "starbucks san francisco ca" [...]

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