Google maps out plan for mobile success

The search giant is focusing its energies on the development of web-based applications, super-fast search and location-based services
Written by Tim Ferguson, Contributor

Google is aiming to make an impact in the mobile sector by focusing on web-based applications, super-fast search and location-based services.

The online search giant has been ramping up its mobile applications for some time and unveiled its own mobile operating system, Android, last year.

London is now the main base for Google's mobile application development — with an 80-strong team — but the company also has centres in Bangalore, Beijing, Tokyo, Waterloo in Canada and Silicon Valley.

Speaking in London, Google's engineering site director, Ann Mai Chang, said: "We're focusing the majority of our development on web-based applications. One of the winning formulas is really a phone with a full web browser."

Google Mobile group product manager, Hugo Barra, said that a great user interface — like Apple's iPhone — and a flat data plan are key to making mobile internet appeal to consumers.

Chang said Google prefers to avoid developing apps that require elements to be downloaded to the device, as this makes the user experience slower and less attractive.

Instead, the company can focus on innovative web applications such as Google Grand Prix: the mobile software suite that includes search, email and location-based services.

Dave Burke, technical lead and manager for mobile engineering at Google, explained how the team has tailored the search application to work more effectively on mobile devices.

One of the main aims with the mobile search app was to reduce keystrokes due to the tricky nature of typing on mobile devices, so the app suggests possible search terms as the user types, potentially allowing them to navigate much more quickly.

Burke said: "Speed matters. We really care about this."

Chang said making navigation and interaction as simple as possible is vital. She said: "Google historically has been successful in part due to our focus on super-fast search."

She added that, although Android is Google's platform, the mobile apps team sees it as just another platform for its technology — reflecting the company's open culture.

Partnerships are central to Google's mobile strategy. The company has struck deals with the major handset makers — Apple, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson — as well network operators across the globe.

In addition to European and US giants such as Vodafone, Telefonica and Sprint, Google also has partnerships with Japanese operators NTT DoCoMo and KDDI, India's Airtel and China Mobile.

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