The Google of Mobiles

Business 2.0 wonders who it is.

While Google and Yahoo are trying to extend their Web search engines into the wireless world, mobile search startups like 4Info and Promptu are trying to make the most of what people use cell phones for today — voice calls and text messages.

4Info, a Palo Alto, Calif. startup, is aiming to popularize text messaging as a way to search the Web, presuming that cell-phone users want quick answers rather than page after page of search results. By sending text messages to 4Info’s designated shortcode — an abbreviated phone number used for information services — users can receive sports scores, weather reports, flight information, and even package-tracking data. 4Info plans to sell keyword-related advertising, and has struck a deal with Gannett (Research) to promote its text-message services in the pages of USA Today.

“People want answers, not links,” says Amol Joshi, 4info’s senior vice president for business operations. “Google has the disadvantage of being a Web search firm.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.