Local Links of Interest

Greg Sterling has a good piece on the The Debate Over User Reviews

Matt has a winner on Dear Small Business Owners: Put Down Your Ranking Reports and it applies equally well to local search

And Bill Slowski has an interesting patent review: Would You Rent Your Rooftop to Google To Show Ads Upon? (Too bizarre)

And an older (but important) post from Ahmed at TechSoapbox on Local data – categories, tags, structure, and taxonomy. I meant to reference earlier, but still well worth a read

Google is expanding Local info gathering in East Africa as well!

Google Maps to Navteq: We’ll build ‘em with People Power

The recent purchase of NavTeq by Nokia has the potential to have incredible impact in the mobile and internet map worlds. The implications go beyond technology into social and political issues. Minimally the technology will give the largest cell phone manufacture dramatically increased technology in the mapping arena. Maps are the logical future of local mobile search. As location based information takes off, Nokia will be well positioned. Certainly since Google and Yahoo depend on this mapping technology the buyout could affect both internet and mobile use dramtatically.

In this recent Forbes article, Bruce Upbin makes the point that Nokia is unlikely to rock the boat on any exisitng contracts as they will very much need the income to pay off the price paid for NavTeq (50 times earnings).

As for Google and Yahoo’s plan he says:

Web players including Google and Yahoo! (nasdaq: YHOO – news – people ) have less to fear from Nokia owning the service that provides their digital maps — they have long-term contracts with the map databases and they never paid that much anyway. Navteq earns a license fee of about $12 a year per subscriber from Verizon (nyse: VZ – news – people )’s VZ Navigator wireless navigation service; Verizon’s customers pay about $120 a year for the service. From Google maps on a phone, Navteq maybe makes 50 cents per lookup. That favorable pricing structure could change. Nokia said in its conference call Monday that it plans to continue working with all existing partners; it has little choice if it’s going to earn back the money it will pay for Navteq.

But Google is hedging its bets. Michael T. Jones, chief technologist of Google Earth, Maps and Local, says the company never considered buying Navteq. Instead, Google could simply recreate the data far more cheaply by tapping the mapmaking skills of its hundreds of millions of users — a wiki of maps, he suggests.

“Every day more people use our product than watch TV,” he says. “They could go outside their house and draw a line on a map for us.” Drivers wouldn’t dare use such a user-generated map unless it was 100% reliable, but it would suffice for local search. Jones says people in India are already creating digital maps of roads for Google.

Could Google simply recreate the data far more cheaply by tapping the mapmaking skills of its hundreds of millions of users? That seems a stretch.

Google announces satellite imagery upgrade

At the Google Lat-Long Blog Google has announced a satellite image upgrade that will appear in Maps shortly.

Today we’ve published a significant amount of new or updated 60cm satellite imagery for Google Earth, with the Google Maps update to follow shortly. Much of this imagery is concentrated in the U.S., Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, Australia and New Zealand. I encourage everyone to go exploring — you never know what you might find.

Blogging From SMX Local and more

Blogging From SMX Local And Mobile – Mike the Internet guy is reporting on sessions as they happen

Michael Jones (Google) Keynote at SMX Local-Mobile Earth and Maps have 250 million users daily around the world.

Yahoo in 15-Nation Deal for Search on Cellphones (NY Times) Under the deal, Yahoo will feature its search engine on mobile portals run by Telefónica of Spain in 15 countries in Europe and Latin America.

Nokia buys Navteq (NY times) “This is not just about ‘the Internet goes mobile,’” Richard A. Simonson, Nokia’s chief financial officer, said in an interview yesterday. “We’re not just trying to replicate the Google or Microsoft experience online. The consumer won’t come unless we give them something that is rich.” That includes using the Global Positioning System to help users find restaurants, theaters and shops. “That’s where we are headed,” Mr. Simonson said.

Information on traffic, updated in real time, would also help consumers reach their destinations more easily.

Unlike phones that access maps online — like the Apple iPhone, which accesses Google Maps via the Internet — Nokia cellphones could be integrated with Navteq’s navigational software and technology. That could give Nokia an edge over competitors like Motorola and Samsung, analysts said.

Local Links of Interest

Nokia to buy Navteq for $8.1 billion in push to expand services, compete with Apple

Nokia’s President and Chief Executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said “location-based services are one of the cornerstones of Nokia’s Internet services strategy. The acquisition of Navteq is another step toward Nokia becoming a leading player in this space.”

Kallasvuo added that by acquiring Navteq, Nokia “will be able to bring context and geographical information to a number of our Internet services with accelerated time to market.”

Search Engines, Classifications, and Assignment of Categories

The way that items are classified on source sites may influence which categories that items from those sites are placed within on a site from a search engine which aggregates those items. They may also influence the creation of those target search engine categories.

Local Links of Interest

Usability test: Does iPhone match the hype? -Users try out the iPhone, HTC Touch and the Nokia N95

It’s also important to remember that the tests focused on how easy it was to pick up the device and use it right out of the box.
“People can eventually learn to use any device,” Ballew said. “But that’s not true usability. We wanted to see how long it took to figure out how to use the phones. That’s the difference between learnability and usability.”

The results:
Let’s cut to the bottom line: In terms of usability, iPhone blew away its two competitors. Its overall score in the usability tests was 4.6 out of 5. The HTC Touch was a distant second at 3.4, and the Nokia N95 scored 3.2.
“Testers were [typically] about twice as fast doing specific tasks on the iPhone, which is pretty remarkable,” Thornton said.

Ultimately, it is this usability that will drive Local traffic and the broad adoption of mobile search.

Retailer’s Shortcut From Desktop to Store (NY Times Free Reg. req’d) – Offline retailers are increasingly offering a way for consumers to shop online but pick up the goods in stores.

Getting Free Cellphone Calls for Ads (NY Times Free Reg. req’d) British cellphone users will get their first look at a new mobile service called Blyk, which will offer subscribers some free calls and text messages in return for their agreeing to accept advertising on their phones.

Want to get there fast? Use Yahoo Maps! A comparison of the same route on the different mapping services from SearchEngineTigers.com.

Japan’s Mobile Phone Web Use= PC Internet Use (sort of)

Mobile Phone Web Users Nearly Equal PC Based Internet Users in Japan

53.6 Million Japanese Use Mobile Phones to Access the Internet – Email is the Most Popular Mobile Web Activity

Other tidbits:

•Interstingly 51% do Search/Navigation.
•Time spent web browsing on mobile phones is still much lower than that spent on desktop PC’s. Internet usage on mobile phones averages 8.1 hours per month versus 18.9 hours by PC -Adoption of web usage on mobile phones skews young. People under 34 years old account for 64 percent of mobile phone web users versus 45 percent of PC web users.
•Despite these significant usage figures, consumer satisfaction remains low. Only 12.6 percent of respondents accessing the Internet via a mobile device stated that they were either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied”, with 52.1 percent stating that they were either “very dissatisfied” or “somewhat dissatisfied”.

It is this last point that creates the opening for iPhone like devices. In yesterday’s WSJ an analyst noted that the iPhone faced considerably more competition in Europe than in the U.S. and thus might not do as well there. He noted that a phone with similar features was “free” with a contract. Certainly, Europe and Japan are ahead of the U.S. in the level of mobile web use, mobile technologies and speed of access. Europe will be a good test of whether those attributes trump usability. Given the stats in Japan and my personal experience (I fall in the “very dissatisfied” catergory), I would think not. “Free” is never a compelling value if it doesn’t work well.

Marissa Meyers, the iPhone and Google Maps

At SES and again at the Tech40Crunch conference Marissa Meyers was quoted as saying that the iPhone has led to a continued surge in Google Maps usage. One could obviously infer from this that (no duh!) a well designed piece of mobile hardware, that is easy to use and has well integrated, pre-installed access to local search software would have an impact on increasing mobile local search. I have written before on the need for an iPhone like device to penetrate the market for the market to go anywhere.

But there be other possible take aways from these comments. One, it doesn’t take much to move Google Map’s relatively low usage higher. Apple has sold 1 million phones. Their goal is 10 million or 1% of the phone market. Thus with 1/10 of 1% of the market “the recent iPhone release brought numerous new consumers for the Google mobile solutions as its traffic was increased from 40 percent to 50 percent when it comes to Google Maps”. Thus somewhere under a million users led to a 50% increase in usage….hmmm

The other is that WAP, .mobi etc. have not had a similar impact despite plenty of opportunity. It seems to me that these technologies are at best stop gap measures until the real “mobile” web ala the iPhone/Google Mobile is more broadly deployed.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search