Google's dominance in search informs many of the company's investments. And when it comes to mobile, Google has taken a hard stance against the applications that Apple champions, choosing instead to put its bets (and sizeable resources) on the future growth of the mobile browser. That makes a lot of sense. But what happens if consumers don't use browser search in the mobile environment?
As far as numbers go, Google is set to dominate the mobile search market even more than it has online. According to Internet marketing firm Net Applications, Google's share for mobile browsing is now over 97%.
But that number is still miniscule. And there's no telling how much it will grow as mobile phone usage continues to increase.
At Startup 2010 in New York this week, the Making Money with Mobile panel came up with an interesting proposition.
Consumers are searching for content on their mobile phones. But what if traditional search is not the best way to find content in mobile?
Currently, when consumers are looking for information, they're not always going to the search bar to find it.
Silicon Alley Insider's Dan Frommer notes that he spends time searching for song titles with Shazam, looks for travel information with a mobile concierge app, and gets location information with Google Maps. But one thing he's not doing is traditional search to find information on his mobile phone:
"I'm not going into a search bar."
Frommer says that there are ways that traditional search advertising will probably not help Google. Furthermore, he notes:
"I don't think I've ever clicked on a Google AdWords ad on my phone."
Granted, tech bloggers may not be the target market for mobile click-throughs, but there certainly is a distinction between the way people surf the web on their computers and on mobile devices.
Kevin Ryan's skepticism of mobile advertising is already on record. The Gilt Groupe CEO has said that mobile advertising will never reach the heights that marketers are hoping for. He's said it before, and he'll say it again: "The screen is just too small."
He also argues that Google has an uphill battle as it moves away from its core business of online search:
"Google suffers from having been so successful at one product, and they did it with no marketing. The challenge is that most products don't work that way."
In regards to mobile search, Google may have to drastically change its approach. Says Ryan:
"From a branding point of view, you just don't think about Google in the mobile ecosystem."
That could change, as browsers become more powerful and smartphones more common. But as devices like the iPad have shown, innovation in one medium seldom looks like what went before it.
Google is on track to dominate the mobile search market even more prominently than it has on computers. But we'll have to wait to see if that market grows to become a major source of income for the search giant.