Yahoo! Now Has Eyes on Voice-Based Mobile Search

Voice-based mobile search technology has already become the new battleground for major Web-based search engine providers Google and Microsoft, and now Yahoo! is reportedly going to add its name to the list of participants.

Yahoo!, which has during the last few months been beefing up its offerings for Internet and directory assistance searches over mobile phones and PDAs, has quietly been hinting that it is looking into the possibility of giving users the option to conduct searches with spoken queries, and has high hopes for voice technology in that area.

"We do believe that voice technology in the mobile space will play a very important role," Yahoo! Senior Vice President Marco Boerries has stated.

"We're definitely looking at voice in the future as something to enhance our oneSearch service," confirms Nicole Leverich, a Yahoo! spokesperson. The company does not yet have a timeline, though, for when the voice service will be available, she says.

Yahoo! launched its oneSearch service in January. The offering provides more than just basic directory-assisted listings. For example, if a consumer wants to go to a movie this weekend, he just needs to type the name of the movie into the search box. The search results would first list the movie, including a user rating, local theaters where the movie is playing, news headlines related to the movie and more. Sponsored search results and display advertisements are built into the experience.

But, the oneSearch service currently requires people to type queries into their handset browsers or to send text messages.

Yahoo!'s interest in voice-based searches comes on the heels of an announcement last week by rival Google that it would test its own voice service, called Google Voice Local Search. Last month, Microsoft also boosted its presence in the space through its acquisition of TellMe Networks.

"The voice-search battle will be interesting to watch, but at this stage, it is a wide-open playing field," assert analysts at the BullMarket.com, a financial news and analysis Web service, "though if Microsoft's assertion that TellMe Networks does more mobile search support than Google and Yahoo combined is accurate, then clearly it would have a solid head start."

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