"We've made a significant investment in mobile search technology" -- Dipchand Nishar, Google

Jun 30, 2006

Google has stated that they need to provide services to mobile phones and other non-PC devices to ensure the future growth of the company, and Google has started to address this market in earnest. For example, in May of 2006, KDDI, a major Japanese mobile phone carrier, announced a relationship with Google, giving Google a better hold in the cutting edge Japanese mobile market. Google's Director of Product Management and one of the key players in Google's mobile strategy, Dipchand Nishar traveled to Tokyo for the announcement and spoke with Nikkei Electronics.

Q: What are the differences between the approaches Google takes with the various parts of the mobile ecosystem and how does that differ by territory? For example, in Japan, you are working with KDDI, a carrier, and in the US, you are working with Motorola, a phone manufacturer.

The difference is in terms of the services we provide. Motorola as a manufacturer doesn't really provide a phone service to any users. But they do provide a very important thing, the device that uses the phone service. With Motorola, we provide a Google icon on the top deck, so, when you open the phone, Google is one click away. On a normal phone, it's very, very difficult to reach a website. It's not like a PC where you type in the address in your browser and you're there. On a phone, you have to go through several clicks to get there, which is a burden on the user. So our partnerships with device manufacturers like Motorola, Sony Ericsson, BenQ, Siemens, are designed to make Google and Google services available for users with just one click.

With the carriers, mobile operators have their own content and we provide them our search technology as well as our advertising technology. We have relationships with KDDI in Japan, with BeeLine in Russia, Vodafone around the world, Telefonica in Spain, D-Mobile in Germany, and many, many other carriers around the world. For KDDI, we are using our core search technology, not just to provide full Internet search, but also for KDDI specific content.

Another part of our technology also deals with formatting this information so it fits a small device. With search information from the full web, as you know, there are lots of images, sidebar navigations and so on. They don't come out very well on a small form factor device like a phone. We're providing KDDI with what we call transcoding services so pages can be rendered to show well on the phones.

We also provide our advertising platform. As you know, Google is used by hundreds of thousands of advertisers around the world. What we do is, based on the search query terms, the right sorts of ads show up. When users search for, say a singer, we are able to provide relevant targeted text ads specific to that search query.

Q: KDDI said that KDDI and Google just started to talk last November. So I think you developed this system in a very, very short time.

I was here last November and we started the conversations along with our CEO Dr. Schmidt at that time. And we reached an agreement in a very short period of time. But the core search technology has been available for a long time. We have been providing mobile search for users. In Japan, i-mode based search was available since 2001, so it has been available for a while. Obviously, we have refined it over the years, and over the last 12 months, we've made a significant investment in the search technology.

"We are excited about Ajax on the phone"

Q: Can you provide any more details on your mobile phone transcoding technology?

Many phone browsers don't support Java script and they also don't have good CSS support. So what we have to do is make sure that those things render okay. There are some obvious things we cannot do today like showing Flash on a handset that doesn't support Flash. But if the user queries for something, and if a web page contains that information, we do our best to actually show the information that is viewable on the limited form factor of the device. That's really the core objective of our technology.

Surprisingly, there is a lot of heterogeneity in device. The same manufacturer can make the same model but, due to some changes to the operating system, the same application doesn't run the same way on two of the same devices. So device platforms are very heterogeneous, which is why you require a lot of innovative technologies to do the transcoding right. We believe we have really put in a lot of effort into and have a lot of intellectual property around how we do the transcoding.