Thursday, August 17, 2006

Voice Based Mobile Search

by Russell Buckley on August 11th, 2006 in Analysis The Mobile Marketing Association just commissioned some research into mobile search that you may have seen and some of it has been bugging me. As well as some unlikely results - 31% of the respondents used mobile search for the first time last month? I mean, c’mon, this isn’t very credible is it? Why would 1/3 of mobile users suddenly try out mobile search? But the main thing is that 37% of people claimed they’d do more mobile search if it was voice controlled. Hmmm. Rupert Murdoch coined a nice phrase a while back about Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives. In other words, Natives are people who have grown up with the technology and Immigrants have learned how to use it as adults. As a parallel, no matter how long I live in Germany, people will always be able to tell I’m not a native speaker, as I learned it as an adult. In the context of mobile search, it sounds an awful lot like they got a bunch of 50+ people and asked them what features they would like. To these Digital Immigrants, inputting text, is clumsy and cumbersome and anyway, isn’t a phone something you speak into? But to a Digital Native, who can input text into a mobile as easily as I can type on a keyboard, who can input while blindfolded, in the middle of the night on Planet Dark, voice control just won’t make any sense. Imagine if you’d grown up travelling by horse and never seen a car. Then you were asked to take a test drive. Assuming you managed to make it go at all, when you were asked for feature improvements, you’d probably ask for simple verbal commands (like “Gee up”), the ability to steer by attaching a role to the steering wheel and that the vehicle responded to nudges from your heels. Ask someone who can actually drive a car and these features just aren’t required. Actually, I bet if you asked the same sample that the MMA used about extra features for a car, voice commands just wouldn’t occur to them - as they can already drive. So, sorry, but Digital Natives are never going to need voice search. For the rest of us, we just need to get a bit more fluent with the device as it stands and where it’s going. And for those people who read this and see an opportunity in voice search, please don’t waste your time.

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