Turn Signals, Window Wipers & Touch Screens: Mobile Search Fuels Up for the Long Haul

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Last night I saw a TV commercial for mobile phones with online video access. The brand name escapes me, but the image of people lying around anywhere and everywhere, watching videos on their mobile phones, stuck with me. Sure, it’s a nice thought, having time to loiter away my lunch hour watching last night’s Letterman. And I won’t be surprised if, in the near future, I see a teenager here and there, tuning in to their palm-size screens. But, while mobile phones have their merits, I have my doubts that I will ever utilize this technology on a regular basis. My primary deterrent is that the screen is just too damn small. There’s no fun in squinting, and old I am not (yet).

In regards to search engine marketing, I have yet to have one client ask me, “How does my homepage appear on a mobile phone screen?” or “Can somebody find my site using Google Mobile?” Maybe the thought has yet to enter the collective marketing consciousness. But with television ads for video-capable, Wi-Fi phones interrupting my favorite sitcom, I have to believe that site owners are telling themselves, “That’s not my online audience.”

So, where do turn signals and window wipers come into all of this? Let’s think simplicity. Let’s think the next vehicle of mobile search. Let’s think in-dash, touch-screen internet access, right there in your car dashboard.

Of course the technology already exists. Companies like Stargate Mobile have been working with Ford Motor Company to develop an in-dash, touch-screen PC that runs on Windows XP. In fact, Stargate unveiled their new F-Series tool for contractors at a recent specialty equipment trade show.

But why do contractors get to have all the fun? People, in general, like to use tools that are simple. Even more so if that simple tool utilizes new technology. Imagine, running your errands around town on a Saturday afternoon with Wi-Fi, or WiMax, access literally at your fingertips: Search for the nearest store with off-the-wall birthday cards for Uncle Bob, let the kid watch Robots (again) via your favorite online movie service, and tune your ears to your favorite New Zealand radio station (XM? What’s XM?). Even more importantly, an in-dash system could (and should) be less of a driving hazard. Accessing your favorite website could be as easy as setting the cruise control. Of course, the details are being ironed out as you read this. But I know the last thing I want to do while turning left, finding the defrost, setting the intermittent wipers, and checking my blind spot is to try to locate menu options on a mobile phone.

So, let’s pretend that mobile search moves into a dashboard near you. What websites become favorites in a touch-screen heavy environment? Obviously, sites that provide simple, touch-screen friendly navigation. We already know that usability equals conversions.

Imagine the marketing possibilities. 18-wheeler friendly restaurants on I-70. Learn to speak Swahili on your way to work. A “Holiday Sale Items” Podcast Button on your homepage, that educates potential customers via their car stereo speakers. Websites designed to cater to mobile touch-screen users.

If I have the choice between that little phone and an in-dash monitor with simple-to-use navigation, there is only one winner in this drag race, every time.

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