'In some markets, you're not allowed to target individuals at all, while others require an opt-out or opt-in mechanism, some might have no restrictions,' she says. 'Either way, operators have to take this into account.'
On the bright side, she adds, 'even without addressing the individual, there's still a lot you can do.'
Should you Yahoo‾
Mention mobile search engines, and most people automatically think of big name brands like Google, Yahoo and MSN. However, this type of mobile search engine - designed for searching the World Wide Web via WAP - isn't the only search option for cellcos.
A second choice is 'white label' mobile search - solutions designed specifically for mobile and integrated into the carrier's deck. According to Gartner, white-label offers different ways to enter search queries, to get around the limitations of the phone keypad, such as auto-completion, separate search boxes for different categories, and even SMS.
In a July report, Gartner rated white-label search vs Internet search for mobile, and found that white-label search beats the Googles and Yahoos in ease of input, results relevance, revenue model and carrier control. This last category is the strongest suit of the white-label model, Gartner says, because carriers can define the boundary of the search (on-portal only, or on- and off-portal) and prioritize results so that on-portal content or content from partner sites (such as music download services, for instance) is listed first.
In fact, some cellcos have already eschewed deals with the big guns like Google and Yahoo for smaller start-up companies like JumpTap and Medio Systems.
In fact, says Peggy Anne Salz, who authored a recent report on mobile search for Informa Telecoms & Media, operators are becoming increasingly wary of major search engines that seem intent on dominating the end-user relationship. White-label search solutions are a way around that, Salz says.
'By owning search, operators will likely be positioned to retain direct advertising revenues generated by pay-per-click and pay-per-call schemes and thus protect themselves from the disintermediation that will occur when branded search engine companies move to control the click-stream,' Salz says.
Still, there's no reason that the major players and smaller localized solutions can't co-exist, says Keith Liu, APAC head of Internet and games experiences from Nokia's multimedia division.
'We have a specific search app, a search client that allows you to do a Yahoo search, but you can also add local directory searches that are more relevant to the user,' he says.
- John C. Tanner