To search or not to search: where is the mobile search market heading?

Abstract: 

Web search providers have a highly successful business model in place, which has rendered them amongst the most profitable companies on the internet. The mobile sector is expanding rapidly with the number of worldwide subscribers estimated to reach 5 billions by 2012 and with two-digit growth rates in the number of mobile internet connections. Consequently, many observers consider mobile search as the 'next big market'. However, there is little evidence so far to support such high expectations. In addition, we spot a general lack of studies based on large public data sets, which employ reproducible methods to forecast the evolution of trends in the sector. Surprisingly, whereas some market research reports dedicated solely to mobile search were published a few years ago, just when mobile search is moving to become a mainstream application, there appear to be no comprehensive recent studies about where the mobile search market is going. In this paper we report and analyse the collective opinions of a group of experts on the prospects of mobile search. The research we present is based on a two-round Delphi exercise. The first round of such exercise was conducted online in order to reach a wide community of experts and to cover a broad range of expertise. The second round was carried out face-to-face with a selection of respondents to discuss in depth the results of the online questionnaire. To get the prospective dimension into the Delphi discussion, we proposed seven distinct scenarios. This set a common ground for participants to engage into a forwardlooking debate and to focus their attention onto prospective drivers and barriers rather than solely onto today's landscape. Our Delphi study confirms the high expectations and bright future experts see for the mobile search market, but with noteworthy nuances. We found that the experts' optimism is rooted in the conviction that all critical technological components are already available and that only some system integration is missing. Our paper argues that there is no adequate market pull response to such technology push. Undeniably some (trial) applications are under way, but their business models are still insufficiently defined and companies are experimenting with different business ideas. Irrespectively of the business model, however, experts single out user-centric interfaces as the most The manuscript was submitted on 15th February 2010. This work was supported in part by the European Commission's coordination action CHORUS+ (ICT-2009.1.5 Grant 249008). Corresponding author: margherita.bacigalupo@ec.europa.eu critical element for increased mobile search take up. Today's interfaces and applications are not satisfactory in terms of users' needs and desires, which is delaying massive adoption. Another essential component for adoption is trust in the service provider. The liability and responsibility of the different players (telecom operators, search engine providers, device manufacturers, etc) needs to be scrutinized. Our study also presents the views of experts on how privacy and personal data usage are influencing the evolution of mobile search. The paper concludes with some suggestions for fostering the evolution of the mobile search domain by increasing the interoperability of services, assuring the openness and mash-ups of content and services, developing personal identity data management systems to improve user acceptance and enhance trust and by supporting research, both on the technologies that are required to enable more advanced used of mobile search applications, and supporting living labs a experimental platform to test new application and innovative business models.


Publication type: 
Congress
Published in: 
18th Biennial and Silver Anniversary Conference Telecommunications Society (ITS) Conference Tokyo, Japón.
Publication date: 
June 2010
CeDInt Authors: 
Other Authors: 
R. Compañó, S. Nikolov, M. Bacigalupo, JL. Gómez-Barroso.