Mobile market failing to address web, says Google VP


1 Dec 2004

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Despite being one of the fastest growing communications tools in history, the mobile phone market is failing to grasp the potential of the internet due to too many standards and differing platforms and choices by operators, the vice-president of operations at Google told siliconrepublic.com in Dublin yesterday.

Urs Hoelzle, vice-president of operations and a Google Fellow, who has been with Google since the late Nineties when it had less than 10 employees before becoming one of the hottest stocks on Wall Street and the biggest search engine on the planet, told siliconrepublic.com that while the internet on traditional computing devices has become ubiquitous, too much fragmentation in terms of standards and competition between operators is failing to make the internet a useable tool for many mobile users.

Hoelzle, who was in Dublin to oversea Google’s recruitment local efforts, expounded on Google’s basic principles of making the web vital for organising, being useful and accessible, but said that mobile operators are failing in this. “Our corporate motto is ‘organising information to make it useful and accessible’ – the organising, being useful and accessible are the hard parts.”

He added: “The wireless market is slowly getting to a point where devices are getting useful in terms of larger screens, better batteries and more productivity tools.

“What’s holding back the big revolution is that every device is different. There is software out there for at least 300 different platforms and that’s not a good situation and that will prevent the emergence of widely used applications.

“I understand that it has a lot to do with carriers. Because they are all trying to differentiate themselves they are fragmenting the whole market. One of the key reasons for the internet explosion was a simple standard that was simple to implement. This generated momentum. That’s what is missing on the wireless market still. Yes, there are Java phones but every manufacturer and carrier does it differently. Look at GPS (global positioning systems) that exist on most new phones today; not everyone can use them because certain carriers prevent this because they want to make money and haven’t figured out how. These attitudes just hinder innovation basically,” Hoelzle said.

However, Hoelzle is optimistic. “The web part of it is becoming better and people will start using it more and more from wherever they are – searches are basically question answering functions. Just as we see broadband users make more frequent use of search than modem users, the more simplistic it becomes to access the information you want wherever you are that will lead to the big explosion in mobile connectivity.”

By John Kennedy