Bill Zhang

Friday, May 19, 2006

Google Goes on Asian Phones

Google signed a deal Thursday with the Japanese phone company KDDI to put its search engine into KDDI’s EZ Web Internet service for its “au” mobile phones.

The search king is also in talks with China Mobile about introducing a similar service in China.

Google has been expanding its presence in the Asian market, introducing a Chinese version of its search engine, Google.cn, and buying a stake in Baidu.com.

The Mountain View, California-based company also faces competition in Asia from its rival Yahoo, which already enjoys a strong presence in Japan, as well as having many users in China. Both companies have run into controversy from their dealings with the Chinese government, however.

The KDDI service will be available in July. It will combine search results for content aimed at both mobile phones and PCs. KDDI said it will also provide users with more direct access to information.

For example, when users search for information about an artist, KDDI used to turn up links to content in different categories and then users would have to perform further searches to turn up the information they were seeking.

Now with the Google engine, the search will give users direct access to music, applications, books, magazines, and shopping information that’s relevant to the artist.

Shares of Google rose $4.51 to $379.01 in recent trading.

Google and KDDI could not be immediately reached for comment.

Tokyo-based KDDI also plans to take advantage of Google’s vaunted advertising skills. Text ads based on search terms will appear alongside related search results. The two companies also plan to refine the mobile search features going forward.

In September, Yahoo was reported to have begun testing the display of ads with Internet search results on cell phones in Japan. That may have helped encourage Google to make a deal with KDDI.

“To lead in wireless today, you must lead in Japan,” said Gerhard Fasol, chief executive of the consulting Eurotechnology Japan. “Google is nowhere yet in wireless in Japan. KDDI is the top wireless company globally, so Google has a lot to learn from KDDI. But KDDI also has a lot to learn from Google, so if the chemistry works out, it looks like an ideal partnership.”

He noted that the KDDI-Google partnership leaves KDDI rival NTT DoCoMo isolated.

“Yahoo is fixed up with Softbank, and there aren’t that many search companies left after that for DoCoMo to partner up with,” said Mr. Fasol. “The only one I know after that is FAST, and they are quite active in Japan.”

China Mobile also said Thursday it is in talks with Google to provide its search engine on mobile phones in China. Chairman and CEO Wang Jianzhou of China Mobile (Hong Kong) told the Associated Press he has met twice with Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

“We both share the same idea: how to turn cell phones into a new kind of Internet search engine,” he said.