"We've made a significant investment in mobile search technology" -- Dipchand Nishar, Google (page 2)

Jun 30, 2006

Q: What are the advantages or differences between other transcoding technologies and yours?

There aren't that many other transcoding technologies out there because a) it's very difficult to do it and b) it requires a lot of resources in order to make sure that it runs not on one phone or five phones but on the hundreds of phones available out there. So the first differentiation we provide is really scale. Our transcoding technology works on hundreds of devices in hundreds of countries around the world.

The second is we have created a very comprehensive capabilities matrix of different devices. A simple example is that different devices have different cache sizes, which means if you are downloading a full Internet page on your phone, your phone might only be able to see 10 lines of text. If we don't understand that and try to send 20 lines to your phone, you will lose the 10 lines and never see them.A third example is say you are looking for a very specific term, such as a special kind of orchid. On the website that's coming to you, it's on page 5. On a PC, it's very easy. You just scroll down and you see it. On a phone, it becomes a little bit more difficult. What we do is to take you directly to the page where or the portion of the page where the information is, so you see that on your screen.

Another example is dynamic images. If you have dynamic images, then they really ruin the experience on the small form factor device, so we handle them differently than you would otherwise.

Our algorithms can also help you to find the most relevant result quickly. We are very particular to make sure we provide search as fast as possible, and on the mobile, we go one step further. Even if the network is slow, and the search was fast, if you had to click on something and wait for it to load, then ultimately it took you a lot longer to find the information and we don't want that to happen.

So we focus a lot on making sure that the first result you get is really the right result, and you might not even have to click on it to get the information. For example, if you want to find a certain ramen joint in Shibuya, you can just say "name of Shibuya ramen joint" on Google search. You will not get a link, you will actually get the answer with the ramen joint in Shibuya and the information you want. So you don't have to click on anything. It's almost like you asked the question and you got the answer. I can't change slow network speeds but I can definitely change your searching experience.

Q: There are a couple of browsers, called full browsers, that enable you to access a PC oriented website. Will this lower the value of your mobile services?

There are two parts to this. One is that for a phone that supports it, a full browser actually is a good thing because then you don't have to make a compromise as a user. And for Google that's a very good thing because, at the end of the day, all we want to make sure is that the user gets the information they want.

The flipside of that depends on which part of the world you're in and what kind of data plan you have. A full browser downloads a lot more than a transcoded portion does because it's rich content. And if you have a plan where you're paying by the packet and you just want one tiny piece of information, that's a lot to pay. Now, KDDI, for example, has a flat rate plan and this might not be as important. But in Europe, a lot of people pay per kilobyte of download. Then it becomes a little bit more expensive for them. Even if it's a flat rate plan, it still takes time to load the images.

Q: In terms of rich-media contents, what do you see the potential for Ajax content on mobile?

That's a very interesting question. The way we provide Ajax-based services is heavily dependent on what the browser capabilities are. Until very recently, mobile browsers did not support Ajax, but we have started seeing some new Ajax browsers coming out. I think some of the high-end phones will start supporting Ajax in the next six months and then, anywhere between the next six to twenty-four months, a lot of phones will start having it. We are very excited by that opportunity because now, all of a sudden, you can provide many more value-added services for the users and the experience becomes a lot richer.

A very simple example is let's say you had a box where you fill something in on your phone and you had a link. If you don't have Java script-capable browsers, what you put in the box when you click on the link is lost. If you have Java script, then you can do that. If you have Ajax, you can provide on the phone some of the richness of interaction that we provide today with Google Maps on the PC. So we're always very excited when the phones become more capable from a technology standpoint. If there was a graphics chip on every phone, then you could actually have a Google Earth experience on your phone. That would be very interesting and very useful. Combining Google Earth with GPS on a phone would be fascinating.