iPhone SDK: a tipping point for Local Search?

Apple’s announcement of their software development kit was big in the tech news arena but got scant coverage in the search world. From where I sit, it appears to be a seminal event that will define local search for the next decade and will lead to a dramatic upsurge in hyper local searches.

There was much speculation about the iPhone tools prior to their release and developers expressed fears about limited access and undocumented api’s. Apple seems to have exceeded developer expectations on that front and delivered a product that can access all of the capabilities of the iphone and iPod Touch while simultaneously offering low barriers to entry and ready distribution. The SDK, despite its early bugs, appears to have been widely embraced and there are significant rewards in the offing to the developers that create popular apps.

The release has moved the iPhone from being a very cool cell phone to being the archetype of the mobile internet device; always on, always present, no limits to what or when something can be retrieved. It will put gaming, calling, music AND search in the hands of users all the time in every location and will (or something very much like it), like the iPod before it, become annoyingly present in our lives.

Having local search available to me all the time during my work day has made me a local search junky. Most people, if they had similar access would use it equally as much. Users of the iPhone are already searching the internet more than anyone thought they would. When the iPhone becomes the teenage toy of choice and the symbol of hipsters everywhere, this affect will only be magnified. At that point, smartphones as we now know them i.e. quite dumb with terrible interfaces will become marginalized.

Local Search will become a passion along with accelerometer driven versions of PacMan and access to the corporate email system. All those folks that don’t have Local Search capability 24/7 will now be enabled and Local Search will grow from important niche to a dominating presence as the iPhone and the iPod Touch become THE choice for devices to access the mobile internet, not just a phone or iPod with some nice apps.

And as web developers and search marketers, because of this, our jobs have become infinitely easier. We hopefully won’t need to develop WAP supported websites and .mobi domains. Here is what Matt Cutts said in a recent interview:

We have been doing a great effort for mobile devices and I think in the past year I have been struggling with what is going to be the future? Should mobile sites be designed for iPhones or SmartPhones?

The short answer to this question is the target market. If your target market is in the United States, it is quite evident that phones are going to get better and smarter. Soon phones will be getting even smarter, and have browsers that will be able to support richer websites. So I think the focus should be to concentrate on creating good websites that would look good in mobile browsers as well as regular browsers, instead of creating specialized websites for smart phones only.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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5 thoughts on “iPhone SDK: a tipping point for Local Search?”

  1. Great coverage, Mike!

    As you know, I am especially happy about that last point. This is truly the next generation of mobile applications if the capability of viewing the web as you would from a PC has arrived. Not having to design 2 websites (a real one and a dumbed down one for mobile) is a tremendous step forward!

    However, as for playing PacMan…I still have my Atari 2600 for that, sitting not 10 feet away from me. I’ve got Adventure too, which is way cooler than PacMan!


  2. I too am glad that it is unlikely that we will have to deal the scrunched screen mobile issue. My only fear is that popularity of browsing on the iPhone may incent more people to make a go of it on their “smart” phones. Most local sites would unlikely see an ROI on that type of investment.

    As for PacMan…Ah but just think of sitting in your favorite restaurant totally absorbed in a wii like experience and totally oblivious to the world around you? Doesn’t that sound appealing?


  3. I wonder if iPhones will need to drop in price before they replace SmartPhones. They are still mighty expensive.

    It’s an interesting thing about the etiquette of mobile devices. I must confess, I still think people look funny walking around supermarkets on their telephones. My husband and I make jokes about getting a cell phone and standing in the middle of Whole Foods having loud imaginary conversations with the CEOs of fortune 500 companies. I have noticed a tendency in cell phone users to speak very loudly in public, as though they are trying to get attention.

    We were in the DMV the other day and hear this man answer his cell phone and loudly demand,

    “Why are you always calling me to ask about that?!”

    We got the giggles.

    I continue to watch with interest the inward turning of urban civilizations. People stopped looking one another in the eye long ago in cities. Now they can completely absence themselves from their physical surroundings with their mobile devices. I can see the crowding and pressures of environment that make this appealing.

    But where I can’t stand it is in the woods. People stride by us on their silly phones, yelling, “YAH, I LOVE BEING IN NATURE! IT’S SO QUIET HERE.”

    Well…it was until they showed up.


  4. Hi Miriam

    I meant that it was a watershed event in converting a phone into a true mobile computng internet platform…not that the penetration or acceptance was yet there. By my calculations (see: When does the future happen?) it is still 3-4 years off for more than 50% of the market to have iPhone like capabilities in their hands and using it. That’s a long time and assumes several generational price reductions of both hardware and access.

    But with the SDK, the ground is laid for a speeding up of the adoption as utility increases.

    Modern life does lead to an atomized and somewhat isolated existence for all of us and while these devices are very cool & Buck rogerish on one level, they are part and parcel of our isolation amidst the crowd and our futher atomization. (Blogging might do this as well. 🙂 )


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