Two key takeouts – respondents to a survey for the Netsize Guide (a respected mobile industry report and almanac that documents the developments that marked 2007 and the trends that will impact 2008) suggest that white-label portals will lose to the search giants, and importantly from my perspective, location based services are key for mobile content and services search.

While I have not seen the report, I’d make two comments on these headlines:

On location enabled services being key: I totally agree.  As my previous posts on Google’s My Location have shown here and here, the addition of a subscriber’s current location significantly increases the usability of mobile search engines.

What is needed is an efficient and effective way of providing location without the need for GPS and my post It’s not just privacy concerns preventing mobile advertising from taking off explains in more detail how this can be achieved. 

Location for the mass market will NOT be accomplished via GPS, so clearly there is a need for a new approach that uses existing or enhanced location elements.
On white-label providers will lose to the search giants: It is not surprising that in late 2007, 1800 industry executives might predict that the big 3 search engines will prevail in 2008. For the first half of 2008, this may be the case, as the existing deals that have been cut between the branded search giants and the mobile operators will have a while to run commercially.  As we move further into 2008, I predict that the end users (and not the 1800 telco execs) will find that these 3rd party search services are not delivering the most relevant content or queries (and advertisers may agree also). 

Mobile operators will finally work out how to monetize their CRM to enable demographic and user information (age, travel habits, numbers and areas most called, how often I roam and to where etc) and will want to apply this to their mobile search engines.  What they will find (in the UK at least) is that the data protection laws prevent the operators from passing my information held on their computers across to a third party.  Those mobile operators that have installed a white-label solution (such as Telefonica who have a Jumptap white-label engine) will brag about how the searches they are delivering are more contextually rich and relevant to the end user. 

I believe that towards the end of 2008 we will see the unbundling of the branded search engine deals on major mobile portals, as operators realise they need a white-label system (which will appear to the end user much the same as the existing search box) hosted internally to allow them to utilise the rich subscriber data that they cannot pass over an API to a 3rd party.  Importantly for advertisers, the white-label powered searches will utilise intelligent mobile search data, yielding better ad targeting and more relevant results for the user which equals increased ad revenue and repeat usage and acceptance from the end user.

Mobile operators are worried about the big 3 search engines treating them as bit pipes, and a white-label approach means that the operators can keep the relationship with their customers, rather than delegating the experience to someone who may not be totally aligned with the operator’s best interests.

I believe therefore it will be the better end user experience that drives how subscriber data is applied to search queries – favouring the white-label approach – which will triumph by the end of 2008.

Below is an extract of Penny’s post – the full post is here

….Which brings me to mobile search. I’m the first to see the results – they will be formally released with the guide at Mobile World Congress – and they blow me away. Consider this: When asked if white-label search will win the mobile search battle against GYM (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft), the survey respondents are convinced size (and marketing) matters. A whopping 76.2 percent think white-label will lose to the search giants.

And here’s another for the nay-sayers who insist location-based services are more of a toy than a tool. Is location an essential element in mobile content and services search? Almost 75 percent of respondents think location is essential. That’s all I can divulge — for the moment — but there is much, much more…

Read more here or go to and register for the report.  Should make interesting reading – all I can say is watch this space (location).