Yahoo Speaks Up for Mobile Search

The company introduces voice-enabled search for mobile devices. 

LAS VEGAS-Yahoo stepped up its mobile search war with Google on April 2 with the addition of voice-enabled search.

Besides adding voice to its OneSearch service, Yahoo also said it was opening up its mobile search platform to other developers.

Available April 2 for select BlackBerry devices, voice-enabled OneSearch was developed by Yahoo and vlingo, a search recognition firm based in Cambridge, Mass. Yahoo also announced it had led a $20 million second-round financing of vlingo giving Yahoo exclusivity to the company's technology.

"With Yahoo OneSearch, we are fundamentally changing the way consumers use the Internet on their mobile phones," said Marco Boerries, Yahoo's executive vice president for Connected Life. According to Boerries, with speech-enabled OneSearch, consumers will not have to change the way they speak or memorize a list of commands. "[Vlingo] has found a new way to say anything and it is recognized," he said.

Boerries added that users would also not need to follow prompts or "think about how to say a mobile search." He said Yahoo plans to add other phones throughout the summer that will support the company's speech-enabled search.

"Consumers have not been able to access the full potential of the mobile Web because they have been held back by limited user interfaces," Dave Grannan, vlingo's CEO, said in a statement. "Vlingo and Yahoo improve the experience by giving mobile consumers total control over the Web by combining the power of speech with the leading mobile search service."

As for OneSearch's new openness, Boerries said, "Open mobile ecosystems are so complex, no one company can achieve it on their own."

By opening up its mobile search results, he said publishers and developers would have more control over how their content is presented in search results.

Since the launch of OneSearch last year, Boerries said Yahoo has signed 29 carrier partnerships covering more than 600 million users under contract.

"We revolutionized mobile search by recreating search specifically for the mobile phone, focusing on answers, not just Web links," he said.

Yahoo hopes this will give users "exactly what they're looking for," said Boerries. Opening up, he said, was a "big, big, big step forward. We expect a lot of traction from publishers and developers."

Yahoo also announced it was working with carriers to debut an "idle screen search." The service makes it easier for users to conduct a search by integrating the search box into the phone's main screen. The integration of Yahoo's OneSearch on the homepage would also give users one-click access to the Internet.

"We've opened up the front door to Yahoo services," Boerries said. "That's how we want them to start their day with the mobile Internet."