Google enriches mobile search experience

by Caroline Gabriel, Rethink Wireless

In response to search engine advances from rivals like Microsoft Bing, Google has beefed up its own offering, particularly for the mobile platform. In a briefing in the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, it focused on Android and the iPhone to demonstrate the next developments in search, especially in real time, mobile, voice and image.

The first of these, which has been pushed heavily by Microsoft, enriches conventional searches on PCs or phones, by including a real time scrolling stream of the most up-to-date results, from sources such as blogs and tweets. A new link on the results page, called ‘latest’, includes blog posts from just seconds earlier, and another, called ‘updates’, includes tweets and other current conversations.

For now it is confined to Android and iPhone handsets but will spread to other platforms, though as with other Google products, we can expect it to be optimized on Android, and deeply embedded into the homescreen experience.

Also for mobile, Google announced support for voice search in Japanese, joining the existing English and Mandarin Chinese; and it unveiled Google Goggles, a visual search feature, currently in development, that enables consumers to use the cameraphone to search for data on the subject of the photo, such as a book cover or building.

Google is also enhancing the location aware search facilities, which are, of course, particularly relevant on phones. Google Suggest upgrades alters the priority of the search results depending on location, and the new ‘what’s nearby’ feature in Maps searches for local businesses and facilities.

Finally, the company also announced new partnerships with Facebook and MySpace to feed updates from public pages on the social networking sites.

Finally, Google has acquired start-up development studio AppJet for an undisclosed amount to enhance its online collaboration technologies, particularly Wave. Appjet was launched in 2007 by a group of MIT graduates who will now join the Wave project.

AppJet’s flagship product is the EtherPad, a real time collaboration tool that allows users to write and edit text over an internet connection without delay.